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In this work the tales were all written down in Irish, word for 
word, from the dictation of the narrators, whose name^ and 
localities are in every case given. The translation is closely 
literal. It is hoped' it will satisfy the most rigid requirements 
of the scientific Folk-lorist. 




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The Literary World says : " A valuable contribution to Indian 
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Edited by G. L. APPERSON, I.S.O. 

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London : Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row, E.C. 



Author of "Glimpses of Welsh Life and Character," 

" From Snowdon to the Sea," " The Land of Arthur," 

*' Britain's Greatness Foretold," &c. 








BRITISH mythology preserved by the ancient Druids, poems 
of the early bards, oral and written tradition, and legends, 
form the foundation- and corner-stones of the folk-lore and 
folk-stories of Wales. 

About two thousand, if not more, years before Christ the Druids 
of Britain taught the belief that the sun, moon, and stars had 
mysterious and mighty influences. Evidences of this are numerous 
in Wales, where Druidism, merging into Christianity, left many 
survivals in the form of May and Midsummer fire festivals and 
other periodical celebrations. 

Mingled with these was the primitive imagination that the 
elements, animals, birds, trees, flowers, plants, and herbs were 
semi-human, and capable of working out actions of pleasure and 
pain. The wind conveyed secrets, the waves had warning voices, 
trees whispered, animals and birds provided omens and tokens, 
while flowers, plants, and herbs had mystic attributes. 

With thunder, lightning, and storms the sorcerer and sorceress 
of old were supposed to be capable of destroying the enemies* 
hosts. With incantation and spell the wizard was enabled to per- 
form his mysteries of defence and revenge. In later times their 
descendant, the Dyn Hysbys, or wise man, had rare gifts and 
magnetic influence, and the witch was associated with magical and 
uncanny deeds. 

Many centuries reveal superstitions without a break, and here 
and there remnants of the Roman, the Saxon, the Dane, and the 
Norman are traced in the folk-lore and folk-stories of the Princi« 
pality. Arthurian romance, mediaeval monkish influence, and 
puritanical severity can be clearly identified in the lore so late as 
the seventeenth, eighteenth, and first half of the nineteenth cen- 
turies. That additions are unconsciously being made is evident, 



for the umbrella, the German band, and the locomotive are among 
later contributions. 

iMuch of the folk-lore and many of the folk-stories, which formed 
a valuable contribution to the early history and condition of the 
Welsh people, survived the itinerary of Wesley in Wales, and 
were preserved by the oldest inhabitants, who considered it 
reverential to prayerfully assist in the laying of ghosts, the con- 
founding of malign spirits, and the exorcism of evil-doers. During 
the religious revival of the fifties of the nineteenth century the 
lore and stories were regarded as gross superstitions, and were held 
in abeyance, but not wholly suppressed. Here and there families 
might be found holding these fragments as connecting-links between 
the past and the people of the day, who cherished loving memories 


"... the touch of a vanished hand, 
And the sound of a voice that is still." 

Love for ancestral sayings and doings is strong in the Welsh 
temperament, and while the religious revival already mentioned 
doubtless purged and purified Wales of gruesome superstitions 
and coarse practices, the minds of men winnowed the bad from 
the good, and the fittest of the lore and stories survived. In later 
years it was not unusual to hear people who had taken prominent 
parts in the religious movement of that period relating, quite in a 
spirit of reverence, the stories told by their grandsires and grand- 
dames, always prefacing them with the intimation that, personally, 
they did " not believe in such things,'' adding, ** but my old grand- 
Ifather was a Christian and a truth-teller.*' 

Folk-stories are gradually diminishing, and in the present day 
can only be obtained from the very oldest inhabitants, or from 
private manuscripts and notebook collections. My late father's 
memory for the old stories told in his boyhood was reliable, and his 
collection of notes, taken from relatives and others, was very large. 
* All instances where the lore and stories are not attributed to 
infonnants, manuscripts, or printed sources, have been personally 
collected from old inhabitants, some of whom have passed away, 
while others still survive. 

It has not been my purpose to dissect the lore and trace it back 
to its original sources, or to embellish the stories, but just to present 
them in their simple form, as a contribution to. a fascinating section 
of the literature of Wales. 


It is to be distinctly understood that the fairy-lore, fairy, giant, 
and dwarf stories of Wales have not been included in this work. 
They have a separate identity, and, if the present book finds favour 
among the lovers of folk-lore and of Wales, the genuine fairy-lore 
— of which the author has a large collection — ^will form a subsequent 

In conclusion, as a native of and resident in the Principality, I 
gratefully acknowledge my sincere appreciation of the invaluable 
suggestions, advice, and assistance so readily proffered and ren- 
dered to me by Mr. E. Sidney Hartland, the well-known and 
eminent folk-lorist, during the arrangement, classification, and 
revision of this book. His practical and indefatigable efforts to 
guide me in making the volume useful to students, and at the same 
time interesting to general readers, has been of the greatest pos- 
sible service, and for these I am deeply indebted to him. Mr. 
Hartland's knowledge and experience of these and kindred subjects 
are very far-reaching, and he placed both unreservedly at my 
disposal. The preparation of the work, which entailed laborious 
research, time, and patience, has proved exceedingly pleasant from 
a personal point of view, and I earnestly hope it will be equally 
agreeable to all those who value the quaint old lore and stories of 



THE following pages are .so full of interest to students 
of tradition, and to Welshmen, whether students or not, 
as well as to that omnivorous but capricious abstraction 
known as " the general reader,** that the question may well 
be put why it should be necessary that anybody should stand 
sponsor for them. To that question no answer is possible 
but that it was the wish of the author. Accordingly, though 
my qualifications for the task are small, I have undertaken 
with pleasure to write a few words by way of introduction. 

The folk-lore here brought together is primarily that of 
Glamorgan and the immediately surrounding districts, but it 
also includes much from other parts of Wales. Folk-lore 
already on record has, as a rule, been avoided, and only 
referred to incidentally and by way of illustration. The 
author has had special facilities for the work. Not merely is 
she herself a child of Wales, enthusiastically devoted to the 
memories and the lore of her people ; she has had the advantage 
of inheriting a manuscript collection made by her late father, 
to which have been added contributions from other members 
of her family on both sides. Living among the people, she 
has made it her business to seek out those who were best 
versed in tradition, and to take methodical notes of the in- 
formation they put at her disposal. The result, I venture to 
think, is a work which fills many a gap of the previous record, 
and helps us materially to an insight into the mind of bygone 

The favourite music of the Welsh is commonly pitched in the 
minor key. In harmony with this, the most obvious note of 
the folk-lore embodied in the following collection will, I think, 
be found to be one of sombre mysticism. It pervades it all 
more or less, but naturally it is most insistent in the chapters 
on the Cwn Annwn, Corpse-Candles and Phantom Funerals, 
Death and Transfonnation. This note is essentially human. 
It is found in the traditional lore of most peoples — at any 
rate, of most peoples who have attained a relatively high degree 


of civilization. But it may be thought to have been intensified 
in Wales by the religious revival of the eighteenth and nine- 
teenth centuries. A careful examination of the folk-lore of 
Scotland, and particularly of Brittany, will dispel any such 
suspicion. The populations of all these countries are reckoned 
Celtic. Whether the characteristic in question, which belongs 
to the folk-lore of all of them, is to be attributed to the 
Aryan-speaking invaders, who seem to have subjugated the 
original inhabitants of the West of Europe a thousand years 
before the dawn of history, and not rather to those aboriginal 
inhabitants themselves, is a question we need not here con- 
sider. It suffices to observe that mysticism of this cast is 
the natural outcome of the union of deep and easily excite'd 
emotion, passionate religious conviction, and vivid popular 
imagination. These are the elements of which it is composed, 
and they are the endowment in equal measure of the Celtic 
populations of Scotland, Wales, and Brittany. 

The dominant note, then, is that of sombre mysticism, and 
many of the best tales repeat that note with a grim intensity 
it would be difficult to beat — as, for instance, the weird story 
of the Vampire Chair, an exact parallel for which I hardly 
know. Others will be recognized as part of the common stock 
of Europe. The legend of Roch Castle is that of Cook's Folly 
at Bristol, and a hundred other places ; it is the story of in- 
evitable fate. The Swansea maiden who married the farmer 
of Anglesea is the Greek Lamia, but the girdle gives a new 
turn to the tradition. Evidently the spell hung upon the 
girdle. What we should have expected is that the husband 
would have seized the girdle, when thrown off by the wife in 
order that she might undergo her magical change, and that, 
on his refusing to restore it, and throwing it into the fire, the 
wife would have glided away for ever imprisoned in her serpent- 
form. This may have been the original catastrophe. But a 
deeper shadow rests here upon the ancient superstition which 
is the basis of the tale. 

Lamia stories are only a variety of the Swan-maiden cycle. 
The Swan-maidens of Gower and Barry Island have nothing 
to distinguish them from their sisters elsewhere, though it is 
interesting to find them in Wales. A tale of more unusual 
form was obtained near Carmarthen by Mr. T. H. Thomas, 
oi Cardiff. It does not appear in this volume, but was printed 
with some other folk-lore in a small pamphlet a few years ago, 
and reproduced, by Mr. Thomas's kind permission, in Folk-Lore, 
vol. xvi., p. 337. In it the lady was a salmon, caught by a 
fisher-lad in the River Towy, and the union fails of its tragic 


end, lasting instead to the natural term of life. All the 
children, however, had in their lips the mark of the hook 
wherewith their mother had been caught. 

Nor are the accounts of rites, festivals, and minor super- 
stitions of less interest than the tales. The fulness of detail 
with which many of these are described from the statements 
of those who had taken part in them renders the record 
specially valuable, although they may have been described 
before. It is needless to discuss them here. I only desire 
to refer to one small point, on which I may be pardoned if I 
indicate incomplete agreement with the author's opinion. 
She thinks that " Lammas Day was not much regarded in 
Wales.'* I have no reason to impugn this generahzation as 
applied to recent times ; but at an earlier period it may have 
been otherwise. There is at least one place where Lammas- 
tide was observed down to our own days. The story of the 
famous Lady of the Van Pool belongs to the Swan-maiden 
cycle. The first Sunday in August used to be regarded as the 
anniversary of her return to the lake, and large numbers of 
people visited the Van Pool on that day in the expectation of 
witnessing her reappearance. There can be little doubt that 
the first Sunday in August is a conventional substitution for 
lemmas Day, due. Sir John Rhys suggests, to Protestant 
influence. Probably rites were once performed at that season 
in honour of the divinity of the lake. They have long ceased, 
and the annual pilgrimage, if it be still performed, is no more 
than a pleasant picnic. But even so it is a witness, degraded 
and hesitating, to the sacred festivity at one time observed. 

Many of the ceremonies and superstitions, as well as of the 
tales, recorded in the following pages are common to other 
parts of the kingdom — nay, of Europe. It would be remark- 
able if they were not, for they are the product of ideas and of 
social relations which are not a peculiar possession of the 
Welsh, or of any people. Ethnological science is built upon 
such parallelisms, and it is a gain to have their geographical 
boundaries extended and their variations made known. To 
students of anthropology, what the late Lord SaUsbury con- 
temptuously called "the Celtic fringe '* is the most interesting 
part of the population of these islands. Its comparative 
seclusion from modern influences has enabled it to preserve 
much that has elsewhere passed away for ever. This collection 
shows what remains, even in a part of Wales in which the 
English tongue, and with it English modes of thought, have 
been predominant for centuries. They have not succeeded 
in abolishing the native traditions, though they have inflicted 


many irreparable injuries on them. A more dangerous, 
because a more insidious and inevitable, foe is, however, to be 
feared. The modem spirit is neither English nor Welsh. It 
is proper to no nationality. It broods over the Welsh as over 
the English, and by its aid the Welsh have already attained 
the van of intellectual progress. But for this advancement a 
terrible price is rigorously exacted — nothing less than the 
abandonment of ancient customs, institutions, and beliefs, 
and the acceptance of a new cosmos wherein such old elements 
as are retained have lost their most precious and most charac- 
teristic features, have been transformed and fused with modem 
speculation and modem aspirations. Fortunately, the modem 
spirit is not hostile to the preservation and study of ancient 
traditions when they are no longer living organisms. Like 
the fragments of an earlier world in our museums, they may be 
brought together for examination and comparison with those 
of other nations. This, to be done effectually in Wales, must 
be done at once. There is no time to spare. When the 
present generation is laid to its final rest, many of them will 
be irrecoverable. To collections Uke those of Sir John Rhys 
and Elias Owen the collection in this volume is now added, 
and there is yet more to be gamered. May other workers be 
stimulated, ere it be too late, to put on record the ways of 
their neighbours and the sayings of the men of old ! If well 
and faithfully performed, it will be a patriotic work. Nor is 
it an unworthy ambition for any descendant of the historic 
Cymry to inscribe his name on the roll of recorders of their 
traditions, a roll headed with the memorable names of Giraldus, 
Geoffrey of Monmouth, and Walter Map. 






Introduction - - - - • - -xi 

I. The Sea, Lakes, Rivers, and Wells - - - I 

II. Fires and Fire Festivals - - - - - 22 

III. The Heavens and Earth - - - - - 35 

IV. Hounds of the Underworld, and Others - - - 47 
V. Water-Horses and Spirits of the Mists - - - 59 

VI. Animals, Birds of Prey, and Insects - - - 70 

VII. Plants, Herbs, and Flowers - - - - 87 

VIII. Trees, Birds, and Water-Fowl - - - - 101 

IX. Wind and Weather - - -- - •116 

X. Stones and Caverns - - - - - -125 

XI. Secret Hoards and Treasure - - - - 141 

XII. The Devil and his Doings in Wales - - - 150 

XIII. Dragons, Serpents, and Snakes - - - - 165 

XIV. Corpse -Candles and Phantom Funerals - - - 178 
XV. Weird Ladies and their Work - - - - I9S 

XVI. Witches : their Rendezvous and Rbvels - - - 206 

XVII. Charms, Pentacles, and Spells - - - - 224 

XVIIL Days and Months ,,--.- 241 

XIX. Births, Weddings, and Funerals - - - . 265 

XX. Death : its Omens and Personifications - - - 280 

XXI. Transformations and Transmigration - - - 292 

XXII. Colour-Lore and Old-Time Remedies - - -3" 

XXIII. The Leasing - 3^4 

Index -------* 341 

Authorities Consulted ... - - 349 





IN Wales the sea, lakes, rivers, fountains, springs, wells, 
cascades, torrents, and pools have much folk-lore and 
many folk-stories attached to them. 
,,^ The seventh and ninth waves of the sea were regarded as 
rescuing waters, and of greater force than any that preceded. 
It is an old saying in the Principality that if a drowning man 
can catch the seventh or ninth wave he will be saved. On 
the other hand, if a man swimming to shore is overtaken by 
one of those waves, the chances are against his ever reaching 
land. It was customary to bathe nine mornings in succession 
in the sea, and this was considered to be a healing course. 
Nine plunges in the sea in one morning — in succession, if possible 
— were good for nervous people. It is said that if anybody 
began in childhood by taking a dose of sea-water immediately 
upon getting out of bed every day, he would live to attain a 
great age. People bom near the sea were supposed to be 
brave. A bunch of seaweed kept hanging in the back kitchen 
scared evil spirits. On many parts of the shore-line of Wales 
the sea-mistletoe is a barometer. This is placed in a bottle of 
sea-water, and sealed down. When the water becomes dull 
or muddy, a storm or heavy rain may be expected. So long 
as the water remains clear and untroubled, the weather will 
be fair. 

The sea, rivers, fountains, and springs were objects of devo- 
tion to the Welsh, and that was possibly why in former times 



very little fish was eaten in Wales. It was commonly believed 

that " fishes lived on the bodies of the drowned," and this is 

another reason why in some parts fish as a food is avoided. 

White waves were watched with awe, and the old people used 

to say they were the spirits of the departed who had met their 

/ fdeath by drowning. They believed that at Christmas, Easter, 

and All-Hallows Eve all those who had been drowned in the 

I sea came up to ride over the waves on white horses, and held 

remarkable revels. The white waves around the dangerous 

sands of Nash, South Glamorgan, used to be called the " merry 


Welsh sailors call the sea " Davy Jones's locker/' an ex- 
pression supposed to have originated in Wales. 

Welsh sea-captains and pilots of the Bristol Channel still 
believe that a ship or boat of any kind is not a derelict if a 
living person or animal is found on it. It was formerly an 
unwritten law that the occupant of the derehct should be 
thrown overboard. If the person or animal could swim a fair 
chance was given, and the seamen humanely aided in the 
rescue. The mariners said they had " Parliament at their 
back '* for their deeds, which were evidently supported by 
some obsolete Act concerning " man, woman, child, dog, or 
cat *' found in a forsaken ship or vessel of any kind. 

From Welsh captains and pilots the following lore has been 
gleaned : 

When a sailor turns a hatch cover the wrong way up, or lets 
a pail fall overboard, he feels " uncomfortable." It is unlucky 
to stitch or mend sails on the quarter-deck. If a man spits to 
windward before he has passed Lundy Island, he will have 
trouble. It is fortunate for a loaded ship with a list to star- 
board, but unlucky if it is to port. When first stepping ashore^ 
or entering a ship or boat, advance with the left foot first for 
luck. Heave a penny over the ship's bow when coming out 
of the docks if you would have prosperity and a successful 
voyage. Welsh sailors' wives formerly gave their husbands a 
piece of bread that had been baked on Good Friday to protect 
them against shipwreck. The mewing of a cat on board fore- 
tokens a serious voyage. If the cat stretches so that her paws 
meet before she reaches Lundy Island from any port in the 


Bristol Channel, storms will be encountered. When cats are 
frolicsome on board a ship, the Welsh sailors say *' a gale of 
wind is in their tails, and there is rain in their faces/* If the 
ship's cat wipes its face often with its paw, trouble is ahead. 
When the animal turns its back to the captain, to the galley 
fire, or the cabin stove, the ship is likely to strike a rock or be 
stranded. If it scratches the mast with its claws, or singes 
any part of its body, '* nothing in the world can save the crew, 
for all hands are bound to go down.*' Never hand anything 
through the ship's ladder. If, when ships go down the Bristol 
Channel, the Great Gutter, or Nash Passage, roars louder than 
Breaksea Point, the voyage will be uncertain and unsatisfac- 
tory. The reverse indicates a storm between Lundy and the 
Scilly Islands. There was an old Milford captain early in the 
nineteenth century who was always engaged to take ships out 
for their trial trips, because, whatever vessel he boarded, it 
" would sure to be lucky." A family of the name of Howe, 
who were weU-known captains, pilots, and skippers along the 
Bristol Channel, had the same reputation as the Milford cap- 
tain. Members of this family still live at Cardiff, Newport, 
and Bristol. 

Those electric illuminations or phosphorescent gleams that 
are sometimes seen playing around the masts and rigging of 
ships were called by old Welsh sailors " canwyll yr ysbryd " 
(" spirit-candles "), or " canwyll yr ysbryd gl&n " (" candles 
of the Holy Ghost "), or the " candles of St. David," and were 
sometimes known by the English name of " comasants," a 
corruption of " corposants." These weird lights are known to 
Italians as " St. Elmo's Stars." By the French and Spaniards 
they are called " St. Elmo's Fire." To the Russians they are 
familiar as *' St. Nicholas' and St. Peter's Lights." When two 
illuminations appeared, they were regarded as tokens of fair 
weather and a prosperous voyage. One solitary illumination 
was an unpropitious omen. Many lights seen suddenly in a 
storm indicated an early calm, or that the worst of the storm 
had passed. 

Old Welsh sailors in the early part of the nineteenth century 
were fond of telling the following yarn : The devil made a three- 
masted ship from wood cut in the underworld. It smelt so 



strongly of sulphur that it was a pest to the coast of Wales. 
In this ship the devil placed the souls of people who died in 
a very sinful condition. Whenever, a fresh cargo of souls was 
taken on board the devil was extravagantly delighted. St. 
David, according to some sailors, St. Donat as others alleged, 
became greatly enraged, and pierced the hull with a spear. 
At that moment the devil was counting the souls on board, 
and only barely escaped by swimming. The ship was wrecked, 
and a giant on the coast of Gower, South Wales, made a tooth- 
pick of the mast and a handkerchief of the mainsail. 

Welsh sailors object to going on board ships named after 
things that sting, because they are generally " doomed to 
destruction." They say that if anything is lent to another 
boat luck goes with it unless some portion of the article is first 
slightly damaged, broken, or wilfully torn. If an article is 
stolen from a ship, the thief has taken the luck too, and, if 
possible, it must be brought back at any price. The old Welsh 
sea-captains would not allow spinning-wheels on board, for 
they brought disaster, but a child of either sex indicated suc- 
cessful voyages. Good breezes were obtained when sailors 
found the ship becalmed by scratching the mizen-mast with a 
nail. Whistling at sea near the coasts of Wales was regarded 
as very unlucky, for unfavourable winds and misfortune were 
likely to follow the ship. 

r***^It was said in the older folk-lore that spring-water drawn 
between eleven and twelve p.m. on Christmas or Easter night 
turned into wine. This water was also considered good for 
colic and all abdominal pains. Running water drawn at mid- 
night from any important spring on St. John's Eve would 
remain fresh and pure a whole year. Water drawn before 
sunrise down-stream and in silence on Easter Day was proof 
against witches and evil spirits. Water drawn before sunrise 
on any Sunday morning in one jug from three separate and 
flowing springs was magical in its use and influence. It was 
customary in many parts of Wales for young men and maidens 
to walk to the nearest important spring on Easter Monday, 
draw water into jugs, and throw flowers on the surrounding 
grass, stones, or bushes. This was prevalent in Glamorgan 

and Carmarthenshire in the early part of the nineteenth cen- 


tury. My informant, who gleaned particulars from his grand- 
father of flower-offerings at springs, saw in this a remnant of 
Celtic water-worship. The youths and maidens believed this 
water-drawing would bring them good luck for the year. 

Welsh girls formerly told their own fortunes in spring-wdter 
on May Day morning. A spring in Cadoxton-juxta-Barry, 
Glamorgan, flowed abundantly in an unfruitful year ; but if 
the water was slow in coming, there would be plenty of crops, 
grain, and sheep. The same used to be said of a spring near 
the foot of Plinhmmon. When the people went to see it, if 
the water ran quickly, they said : " This year everything will, 
be very dear." -^ 

People were warned not to spurt or scatter the water from 
their hands after washing the first thing in the morning, else 
they would scatter their good luck for the day. To spill water 
while carrying it from the spring or brook was an omen of 
sorrow. Two persons should not wash in the same water with- 
out first making the 3ign of the cross in it. Water and corpses 
are said to disagree. The body of a drowned man always floats 
face downward, but a woman's keeps face upwards. The 
drowning man's body remains at the bottom of the sea or a river 
until the gall bursts. 

Rain-water baths will make babies talk early. Water that 
will not readily boil is bewitched : to make it boil you must use 
three different kinds of wood. 

Money washed in clear rain-water cannot be stolen. In 
getting water from a brook it is lucky to draw it with a pitcher 
down-stream. Pigs bathed in water in which killed swine have 
been scalded will thrive better and grow well. 

The water in which a babe is washed for the first three months 
of its life used to be thrown under a green tree to make the child 

There was an old belief in Wales that if a man wrapped up in 
the skin of an animal just killed was laid down alone beside a 
waterfall, he would have the future revealed to him by the soimd 
of the waters. 

It was customary in the first half of the nineteenth century 
for farmers to throw three ears of wheat, drawn from the first 
waggon-load to leave the harvest-field, into the nearest miming 


water. When this was not possible, three ears were placed in 
the carter's or farmer's hat, and when reaching the farm-yard 
they were burnt. This was done for luck. 

If a person washed or sprinkled any kind of animal in one of 
the fountains of healing, the water lost its virtue. 

' If a person bitten by an adder, viper, or any kind of serpent 
could leap across the nearest water before the reptile vanished, 
he would lose the venom and not die. If it was only a small 
rainpool, it would suffice. 

The pouring out of water in seasons of drought was supposed 
to bring rain, and in the days of old this was done with con- 
siderable ceremony. It is a common expression among the 
peasantry of Wales to say : " Don't spill the water about unless 
you wish for rain." When rainy weather prevails, the farm- 
maids are told : " If you keep spilling the water about we shall 
have more rain, and we have had quite enough already." The 
old people used to say : " You must not throw stones into the 
wen, or you will raise a storm." The same was said about lakes 
and rivers. At one time nothing irritated aged persons more 
than to see boys and girls pelting the well or river with 

Very old people always spat thrice on the ground before cross- 
ing water after dark, to avert the evil influences of spirits and 
witches. If you part from a friend beside a bridge you wiU part 
for ever. To avert the possibility of this, it was customary to 
cross together, take farewell on the other side, and the one who 
remained at home had to return alone. 

It was unlucky to take any pay for water. Those who did so 
would have to cry in torment for a few drops. 

If the water of any river, stream, or brook swept occasionally 
around a space of meadow-land so as to form an island, people 
said the tenant of that farm would be exceptionally fortunate in 
the harvest seasons succeeding the occurrence. 

Washing-day lore is curious. If a new garment is washed 
for the first time when the moon is new, it will not wear weU. If 
the washer-woman pulls out any garment from the tub upside 
down or to the left, the wearer of the article wiU never be 

The woman who wets her apron very much, or splashes the 


water much about, will have a drunken husband. Soap fre- 
quently falling means " fresh work/' 

It is very unlucky to wash garments on New Year's Day. 
To wash any articles on Good Friday was considered very 

Garments washed with the " right side out " would soon lose 
their good colour. When the water boiUng ready for washing- 
day makes great steam, strangers may be expected. If it boils 
quickly it is for luck, and when it boils slowly there will be a 
delay in business. 

The River Dee was supposed to be very sacred. It rises from 
two springs near a farm-house called Pant Gwin, near Dolgelly, 
in Merionethshire, and it is asserted it passes through Bala Lake 
without mixing its waters with those of the lake. Beyond 
Chester it runs to the Irish Channel. This river is supposed to 
derive its name, not from " du " (black), or " dwy " (two), but 
from " duw *' (divine).* 

Spenser the poet, in the " Marriage of the Thames and 
Medway," includes it among the bridal attendants : 

*' And following Dee, which Britons long ygone 
Did call divine that did by Chester tend.*' 

Milton, in " Lycidas," writes : 

** Nor yet where Deva spreads her wizard stream.'* 

An interesting story is connected with the Roodeye, a 
spacious meadow near the Dee at Chester. This ground was 
ages ago flooded by the tides in the Dee, but a bank or eye of 
land in the centre remained above high-water mark. On this 
piece of ground a plain and substantial stone cross formerly 
stood. It acquired the name of the Roodeye, or Island of the 
Cross. Tradition asserts that at one time drought was intoler- 
able in the neighbourhood. In the church of Hawarden, in 
FHnt, a cross and image of the Virgin Mary stood, and to this 
shrine of the Holy Rood people of all classes went to pray for 
much-needed rain. Lady Trawst, the wife of the Governor and 
Lord of Hawarden, prayed so fervently and continuously that 
the image fell upon her, and caused her death. So angry were 

I ^ * Pennant's " Tours," vol. ii., p. 217, 


the inhabitants with this answer to their prayers that they 
selected a jury to sit in judgment. The verdict was " wilful 
murder " against the image of the Virgin Mary. The jury 
determined to lay the offender on the beach at low water, 
whence the next tide carried it to a spot under the walls of 
Chester. It is asserted that the citizens of Chester held an 
inquest, and seeing that the object was the image, decided upon 
" burying her where she was found." A cross was erected 
" over her grave." Another version affirms that the image was 
carried to St. John's Church, and there set up, and the crucifix 
was placed upon the Roodeye. There was an old rhyme on 
this subject. It ran thus : 

** The Jews their God did crucify ; 
The Hardeners theirs did drown, 
Because their wants she'd not supply. 
And she lies 'neath this cold stone."* 

Near the banks of the Dee at Chester are the Wishing-Steps. 
The folk-story attached to this is that whoever stands at the 
foot of these steps and wishes for anything, and runs up to the 
top and down to the bottom without taking breath, will have 
his desires fulfilled. f 

In several of the folk-stories of Glamorgan the Severn is 
described as crying, wailing, moaning, or groaning like a woman 
in sorrow, grief, or physical agony. Up and down the Bristol 
Channel skippers in the last half of the eighteenth century said 
that the apparition of a woman was seen swimming. Some- 
times she was seen trying vainly to reach land, or gracefully 
swimming down Channel, or battling up the Severn Sea against 
the tide. This story probably owes its origin to a tradition 
regarding King Locryn and his amour. Locryn, the eldest son 
of Brutus, married Gwendolen, daughter of the Duke of 
Cornwall, who conquered Gog and Magog. After overthrowing 
Humyr (Humber), King of the Huns, Locryn found in one of the 
enemy's ships Estrildis, " a daughter of the King of Germany." 
She was very beautiful, and for some time Locryn kept her in 
a subterranean dwelling near the Severn. This charming lady 
bore him a daughter, named Aveme Sabre, Sabren, or Sabrina. 

♦ Thomas Hughes, F.S.A., " Handbook to Chester/' p. 40. 
t Ibid., pp. 48, 49. 


During the Duke of Comwairs lifetime Locryn made it known 
that he visited the secret habitation in order to worship his gods 
in private. When his father-in-law died, Locryn divorced 
Gwendolen, married Estrildis, and made her Queen. The 
divorced wife raised an army against Locryn, who was slain at 
the first encounter. Gwendolen captured Estrildis and her 
daughter, and caused both to be drowned in the Severn. An 
edict was issued that the river should bear the name Sabrina 
to perpetuate her memory and the infamy of Locryn.* Miltorl 
put the legend into flowing verse, which describes the *' daughter 
of Locrine " undergoing 

** a quick immortal change, 
Made goddess of the river." 

The whirlpool of the River Taff at Cardiff forms a small lake 
when the bed is almost dry. In the days of old this whirlpool 
was called one of the " seven wonders of Glamorgan." People 
said it was fathomless, and in its cavernous depths a mon- 
strous serpent dwelt, and gorged on the unfortunate victims 
that were drowned in the river and sucked into the whirlpool. 
When any bodies were not recovered from this whirlpool people 
said they had been swallowed by the serpent, and agonies of 
torture possessed the minds of those whose relatives were so 
ill-fated. When a body came to the surface it was thought 
that the person was very good, because the serpent would not 
touch the corpse of the righteous. 

An old woman who was fond of telling nursery stories related 
to her by her grandmother said that the Taff whirlpool was 
frequented by a lovely lady, who lured people whilst bathing. 
Youths were known to swim or row towards her, attracted by 
her beauty. They were then sucked into the vortex, and their 
bodies coiild never be found. She said the lady was the devil in 
disguise. " It is a dreadful winch,"t said the narrator, " and it 

♦ " Geoffrey of Monmouth/* book ii., chapter i. 

t In Wales the word ** winch " is always associated witb. water. 
The Welsh scare children from deep water by saying, '* There is a winch 
in it." It is believed that if a person falls into a winch his body will 
never be recovered. The Nash Sands, off the coast of South Glamorgan, 
have a winch into which ships are drawn. The Nash Passage, lo<^y 
known as the Great Gutter, contains a winch, which at high-tide is 
very dangerous, and swimmers are warned against it. Renfig Pool, 


is fathomless. It reaches from the Taff to the mouth of per- 
dition, where Satan waits for the souls who are beguiled by the 
lovely lady/' 

A similar story used to be told about the whirlpool of 
Pontypridd, on the same river. The Black Pool, at Cefn, 
Merthyr-Tydfil, Glamorgan, has an evil reputation as " luring 
people to suicide." 

A curious story is attached to Ll)^ Gwyn. St. Patrick 
passed it on his way to visit St. David. He was accompanied 
by another saint, and when they reached this lake one of them 
suggested resting awhile. This was done, and during the halt 
the saints discussed religion. Coming to a controversial point, 
the men grew irritable, and St. Patrick was very angry. Several 
Welsh people overheard the religious quarrel, and expressed 
surprise and annoyance. St. Patrick in spite turned them into 
fishes. One of the party was a woman, who was transformed 
into a white lady. She was often seen accompanied by flashes 
of light. On account of this insult to St. Patrick, the sun never 
shines upon the lake but during one week of the year.* 

Llangorse Lake is said to be the site of a sunken city, the 
inhabitants of which were reported to be very wicked. The 
King of that part of Wales sent his ambassador to ascertain 
whether the rumour was true or not, adding that if it was well 
founded, he would destroy the place as an example to his other 
subjects. When the ambassador paid his surprise visit it was 
evening, and all the inhabitants were enjoying festivities and 
excesses. Not one of them offered the stranger any hospitality. 
Seeing the door of a humble cottage open, he entered, and found 
the place deserted, with the exception of a wailing babe in a 
cradle. The ambassador remained beside the babe, and acci- 

near Porthcawl, is supposed to contain a winch. All along the coast of 
Wales there are shore and sea pools, each of which is supposed to con- 
tain a winch. It must be understood that the winch is not associated 
with every well, pool, and lake, but certain localities are thus famed. 

Sly and underhanded people are conunonly described in Wales as 
being ** as deep as a winch." 

At one time I thought the word belonged exclusively to Glamorgan 
and the Flemings, but wider and later investigation revealed the 
use of it in many parts of Wales, both with reference to water and 

• William Howell, " Cambrian Superstitions." 


dentally dropped one of his gloves into the cradle. In the 
morning before dawn he took his departure, intending to convey 
his unpleasant confirmation of the rumours to the King. He 
had only just left the outskirts of the city when he heard 
repeated peals of terrible thunder, accompanied by groans and 
shrieks. Then there were sounds Hke the dashing of waves. It 
was cold towards sunrise, and he missed his glove, which was of 
great value, so he returned to look for it. When he reached the 
outskirts of the city he saw. that the houses had vanished, and 
the whole site was covered with water. While gazing at the 
lamentable scene, he saw a speck in the centre of the water, and 
as it was wafted towards him, he recognized the cradle in which 
he had left his glove. He drew the cradle towards him, and 
brought it up to dry land, and then found the babe safe and 
alive. The ambassador took the baby to the King, who 
adopted it as the sole survivor of the lost city.* 

Kenfig Pool, near Porthcawl, Glamorgan, has a tradition 
attached to it. A local chieftain wronged and wounded a 
Prince, and the latter, with his dying breath, pronounced a 
curse against the wrongdoer. The curse was forgotten until 
one night the descendants of the chieftain heard a fearful cry : 
" Dial a ddaw ! Dial a ddaw !" (Vengeance is coming !). 
At first it passed unnoticed, but when the cry was repeated 
night after night, the owner of Kenfig asked the domestic bard 
what it meant. The bard repeated the old story of revenge ; 
but his master, to prove the untrustworthiness of the warning, 
ordered a grand feast, with music and song. 

In the midst of carousal the fearful warning cry was re- 
peatedly heard, and suddenly the earth trembled and water 
rushed into the palace. Before anybody could escape, the 
town of Kenfig, with its palace, houses, and people, was 
swallowed up, and only a deep and dark lake or pool remains 
to mark the scene of disaster. In the early part of the nine- 
teenth century traces of the masonry could be seen and felt 
with grappling-irons in the pool. The sands near by cover 
many old habitations, f 

A similar story is told of Llyn-y-Maes, a beautiful lake near 

* Davies, ** Mythology and Rites of the British Druids," p. 146. 
t lolo Manuscripts, p. 607. 


Treflyn, in Cardiganshire. Its name means the lake of the 
field, which, according to tradition, covers the ancient site of 
Tregaron. The people of this old place were very wicked, 
and went to excesses in all ways. Most of their time was 
spent in revelry, feasting, hideous orgies, and incessant forms 
of every kind of pleasure known in those days. Many times 
had the people been warned that the place would be destroyed 
by fire and flood if they did not cease their wickedness, instead 
of which they grew worse as the years passed. One night, 
when the revelry was at its height, lightning caused a fire to 
break out, and a flood followed, completely overwhelming the 
place. Not a person escaped, for those who were not burnt 
were drowned. [A, B.] 

In Carnarvonshire there is a lake called Llyn-Nad-y-Forwyn, 
or the Lake of the Maiden's Cry. A man and a maiden were 
betrothed, but he was a deceiver, and one evening, when the 
nfiists were rising from the water, he pushed the girl in, and 
she was drowned. Her spirit was said to haunt the lake. Some- 
times she appeared like a ball of fire rolling along the banks 
of the Collwyn. Her groans and shrieks could be heard 
a long distance away. Sometimes she arose out of the 
water with hair in disorder, and wildly waving her arms. 
People said she could often be heard weeping and moaning 
and plaintively uttering the words, '' Lost ! lost V [Family 

Ll5m Dulyn is in one of the rugged valleys among the moun- 
tains of Snowdon. It is encircled by high rocks. The water 
of this lake is very black, deep, and turbid, and the fish that 
live in it have very small, withered-looking bodies, much 
deformed, and large grotesque heads. Wild-fowl and other 
birds shun this lonely lake, which is dismal in the extreme. 
A causeway of stones leads into this lake, and at the end of 
it there is a stone called the Red Altar. If even on the hottest 
day of summer any person throws water so as to wet this 
altar, rain will fall before night.* 

This black lake is supposed to be an extinct and fathomless 
volcano, and shepherds in the surrounding mountains used to 
say that the appearance of a dove near those black and fateful 

* The Greal, a Welsh magazine published in London, 1805. 


waters foretokened the descent of a beautiful but wicked 
woman's soul to torment in the underworld. 

In the seventeenth century people believed that if anybody 
had the courage on one of the " three-spirit nights " to watch 
beside Llyn Dulyn he would see who were to die within the 
next twelve months. Fiends would arise from the lake and 
drag those who had led evil lives into the black waters. Those 
who had led good lives would be guided past the causeway 
leading to the lake, and vanish in spirit forms robed in white. 
A reputed witch disappeared from the district, and a shepherd 
said he saw her being dragged into the black waters. [^4. B.] 

The Pwll-Gwen-Marw, or Dead Lady's Pool, is in the River 
Afan, at the foot of Moel Mynyddau, under Tewgoed Colliery. 
It is said that the spirit of a lady moans and hovers all 
night over the dangerous waters to warn people from the 
neighbourhood and point out tracts of safety. [A, B.] 

Near Lake Tegid, now known as Bala Lake, there was a 
walled-in spring with a lid which had to be put on every night 
and locked, so that witches, fairies, and the devil might not 
disturb the waters. In close proximity to the spring there 
was a large and important town. One night the keeper of 
this spring forgot to put the lid on ; others said the devil had 
opened it. The waters burst out and overflowed the town, 
destroying everything before them. The site of the sub- 
merged town became Lake Bala. In the story. Old Bala is 
under the lake, which is about three miles long and one mile 
wide. A prophecy still unfulfilled is to the effect that New 
Bala is to meet the same fate. [C. D.] 

There used to be a belief in Wales that lakes object to having 
their depths ascertained. Bala Lake was one of these. Two 
men went in a boat to what was regarded the deepest part, 
and ran out plummet and line to an almost endless extent. 
Presently a terrible cry rent the air, and a voice from the 
waters cried aloud : " Line cannot fathom me. Go, or I will 
swallow you up !" Since then no one has dared to sound the 

It was said that Bala Lake was bottomless. Centuries ago 
an expert diver tried it, but was terribly frightened by his 
experience. He asserted that a dragon was coiled up at the 


bottom of the lake, and if he had not been very careful the 
creature would have swallowed him. [A . 5.] 

Llyn-y-Gader is a round lake in the south-west of Snowdon. 
A man of the eighteenth century swam across this lake, and 
his friends, watching him, noticed on his return that he was 
followed by a long, trailing object winding slowly after him. 
They were afraid to raise an alarm, but went forward to meet 
him as soon as he reached the shore where they stood. Just 
as he was approaching the trailing object raised its head, and 
before anybody could render aid the man was enveloped in 
the coils of this water-monster, which dragged him to a deep 
hole in the end of the lake from which the Llyfin flows. There 
he was drowned, and the spot where he sank revealed blood- 
red waters. [A, 5.] 

Gellionen Well is in Glamorgan, not far from Pontardawe. 
It was formerly frequented by people in seasons of drought 
for the purpose of getting some of the water, which, when 
thrown or scattered about, would bring rain. This was cus- 
tomary in the early part of the nineteenth century. An old 
man who in his childhood remembered this said people would 
dance on the nearest green spot to the well, and throw flowers 
and bunches of herbs at each other. Then they would sing 
old-fashioned Welsh ballads, and play kiss-in-the-ring. The 
leader of the company, going to the well, would cry " Bring 
us rain !*' three times. The people, chiefly youths and maidens, 
would then fill bowls or pitchers with the water, and either 
throw it' there or carry it home to scatter upon the garden. 
Rain always followed. [Family Collection.'] 

The well dedicated to St. David at Henfynuw, Cardigan- 
shire, had a curious story attached to it. An old man went 
to this weU alone on Midsummer Eve, and while there he 
heard a voice from the waters calling '* Help ! help !" He 
looked around everywhere, but not a person was visible. The 
man sat down to rest because he was tired, and thought no 
more of the cry. But later on he heard the same cry twice 
repeated. " Who calls for help V he asked, going to the well. 
" It is I," said the voice ; " I am calling.'* " Who are you V 
asked the man. A hand was stretched from under the well, 
and the voice bade the man to clasp it, and " hold tight.*' 


He did so, but the hand was sUppery, and he loosened his 
hold, and as the mysterious fingers vanished the voice cried : 
*' I am bound for another fifty years !" [Family Collection and 

Between Abergele and Llandudno there is a spring called 
Ffynon Elian. People maliciously inclined formerly used to 
come from all parts of Wales, under the pretence of drinking 
the healing waters. In reality, they came to obtain the waters 
for bewitching their enemies. A farmer in Breconshire, having 
heard of this, took two small barrels, and, placing them pannier- 
fashion on his horse, went all the way to Abergele for water 
from Ffynon Elian with which to punish his enemies. He 
returned home, and placed the barrels in his outhouse. The 
next morning he went to get some water to throw after one 
of his enemies, but the barrels burst, and the water fell over 
him, with the result that he was bewitched ever afterwards. 

This well was closely connected with many terrible super- 
stitions. Some of the old people generations ago caUed it the 
" well of evil," and it was shunned by all respectable persons. 
A man living beside this well was called the clerk of it. He 
was consulted by persons who bore malice to somebody, and 
wished to injure them bodily or mentally, or both. The clerk 
undertook to gratify their needs if they paid him a good sum 
for his work and secrecy. One of the things done was to 
enter the man's or woman's name in a book. A pin was stuck 
in the name, and a stone, inscribed with the initials of the 
person to be persecuted, was thrown into the well. So long 
as it remained in the well the curse would work. When any* 
body desired to remove the curse the pebble was taken out of 
the water, and the name erased from the clerk's book. Some- 
times a rude figure made of marl, wax, or dough was thrown 
into the well, and kept in the water for any desired period. 
A tale about St. Eliem's Well was as follows : A woman believed 
her husband to be guilty of infideUty, and desired to punish 
him ; so she made a figure of marl and stuck it with pins in 
the place where the heart would be. She then registered his 
name in the clerk's book, and lowered the marl figure into 
the water. There it remained for a week, during which her 
husband suffered tortures of pain in his heart. At the end 


of the week she had the marl figure drawn up from the well, 
and stuck the head of it closely with the pins removed from 
the heart, and accordingly the suffering was removed from 
that organ to the brain, and he became almost mad. After 
successive tortures of various kinds and in different parts of 
the body for several months, the man altered his behaviour, 
and, expressing penitence, was forgiven by his wife. 

Another story is about a man whose uncle had been cruel 
and unjust to him. He made an image of wax, stuck it with 
pins, tied to it a lump of copper, and suspended it over the 
well by a piece of cord. The man then uttered " secret words 
of cursing," in which he desired that his uncle might con- 
tinually suffer severe pain, and lose money, property, and 
possessions. The figure was lowered into the well, plunged 
three times in succession, and then allowed to remain in the 
bottom. The uncle remained under the ban until the nephew 
promised to release him on payment of a certain sum of money. 
This was done, and the curse was removed. The story goes 
that the uncle suffered severe pain, some of his property was 
burnt to the ground, and a stranger robbed him while under 
the curse. [A. B, and Family Collection.] 

The Silver Well at Llanblethian, near Cowbridge, Glamorgan, 
was a great resort of youths and maidens, who went there to 
te^t the fidelity of their sweethearts and lovers. The points of 
the blackthorn were gathered by breaking and not cutting them 
from the bush. One of these was thrown into the well. If it 
floated the lover was faithful, and if it whirled round he was 
also of a cheerful disposition. If it remained like a log on the 
water he was stubborn and sulky, and if it sank out of sight 
he was unfaithful. If a number of thorn-points feU accident- 
ally into the water, the lover was a very great flirt. The same 
was said of Ffynon Saethon, in Lleyn, North Wales. [Family 
Collection and Manuscripts.] 

People used to visit Gwyned Well, at Abererch, to ascertain 
the result of anybody's illness. A garment of the sick person 
was thrown into the waters. If it sank to the right he would 
get well, but if it went to the left he would surely die. 

In the well of St. Peris, at Llanberis, North Wales, there was a 
large eel, and this was protected carefully. If this eel coiled 


around the person, he would be healed. An old tale describes a 
young girl bathing in the waters, and when the eel coiled around 
her she died of fright. 

According to the folk-stories, Mary's Well at Llandwyn con- 
tained sacred fish, the like of which was never seen in any 
'* other well in Wales." Still the same story used to be told of 
Peter's Well near Llantwit Major, South Glamorgan. {Family 

Eglwys Fair Well, in Lleyn, opposite Bardsey Island, has a 
folk-story attached to it. It is said that in the far past a 
beautiful woman had a very important wish which she desired 
to obtain. One evening about sunset a strange lady came to 
her, and said that her wish would be gratified if she descended 
the steps to the well, filled her mouth with water, then ascended, 
and went around the church once without losing a drop of the 
water. To this day young people do the same thing, hoping 
their wishes will be obtained. 

The well at Llanbedrog, in Lleyn, had oracular powers, and 
was frequented by people wishing to find out the thief who had 
stolen their goods. It was customary for the inquirer to kneel 
down beside the well and utter the names of a number of 
people, suspected or not, at the same time throwing a piece of 
bread into the water. At the name of the thief the bread would 
sink. If the bread floated until it gradually soaked to pieces 
the thief would not be discovered. [^4 . 5.] 

The waters of St. Fegla's Well, Carnarvonshire, were effi- 
cacious in cases of falling sickness. People washed their hands 
in the well, and then dropped a fourpenny-piece into it. Then, 
repeating the Lord's Prayer, they walked around the well three 
times. The male patient had to take a cock, and the female 
patient took a hen, in a basket, which was carried by them in 
all their movements. After going round the well, the patient 
entered the churchyard, went into the church, and laid himself 
down beside the altar, with the Bible under his head. He then 
covered himself with a blanket or a thick shawl, and remained 
thus until daybreak, when he got up, and left the fowl in the 
church. Should the bird die, it would be clearly understood 
.that the disease had been transmitted to the fowl. There are 
several wells in Wales where the same process used to be gone 



through. A folk-story connected with one is that a woman 
who possessed considerable means went to the well one day 
carrying a hen in a neat basket. She did all that was required 
of the patients, but was tod mean to drop a fourpenny-piece 
into the well. That night, while sleeping in the church, she 
was awakened by somebody pinching her severely. She im- 
mediately got up, and in the darkness tried to find her assailant, 
but was only plunged into worse torments. Some unseen hands 
laid hold of her, shook and beat her, and prevented her getting 
out of the church. When the day dawned, she found herself 
alone in the church. The fowl had been released from the 
basket, and was nowhere to be seen. It had mysteriously 
vanished. Instead of recovering, the patient grew gradually 
worse and died. Another version ascribes this tale to a man who 
threw a piece of gold into the well, and suffered in much the same 
way as the woman, and with the same results. [A. B. C. D.] 
It was customary for a newly married wife to drop a pin or 
pins into the house-well immediately after entering her new 
home. If she neglected to do so, the first year of her married 
life would be unlucky. To pass a pin well without dropping a 
contribution in the shape of a pin or needle was regarded as 
very unlucky. In some places contributions of rags were 
expected, as well as of pins. Several wells or springs at 
Llancarfan, in the Vale of Glamorgan, were renowned as pin and 
rag weUs. Marcross Well, in the south-west of the same vale, 
had deposits of pins for wishing purposes, and thank-offerings 
in the form of rags were fastened to the trees, brambles, and 
bushes in the close vicinity. The waters of Marcross Well were 
of medicinal efficacy, and especially in cases of eye affections. 
It seems to have been visited for various complaints, and an old 
rhyme about it runs thus : 

** For the itch, the stitch, rheumatic, and the gout, 
If the devil isn't in you, this well will take it out." 

People believed that the waters of this spring promoted the 
growth of the hair. 

Penylan Well, near Cardiff, was visited for wishing purposes, 
and beside Taff *s Well, near the Garth Mountain, rags, crutches, 
and sticks were deposited as votive offerings. 


Wells were known to change colour when people quarrelled 
beside them. A well near Wenvoe, in South Glamorgan, was 
polluted by children throwing mud and manure into it. The 
respective parents blamed each other for allowing the children 
to do this. Both made disclaimers. When next people went to 
draw from the well, they found the waters partly brown and 
partly red. So long as the quarrelsome parents lived in the 
neighbourhood the waters remained discoloured. When the 
parties moved away to other villages, the waters resumed their 
normal condition. 

Springs and wells in some districts were supposed to be 
guarded by serpents and dragons, and the killing or removal of 
the guardian was attended by dire consequences, frequently by 
an epidemic which swept away whole families. To offend a 
well or spring was regarded as dangerous. 

An old woman living in the hamlet of Ogmore, to the south 
of Bridgend, Glamorgan, remembered a curious story which 
was told to children in the early part of the nineteenth century. 
Three springs hidden in a hiU not far from the Ogmore MiUs on 
the Ewenny River, to the south of Bridgend, Glamorgan, were 
regarded as very mysterious. The three springs united at a 
spot which is known as the Shee Well. My informant said the 
people believed that girls were carried off by water-ogres, and 
kept imprisoned at the source of the springs. Some of these 
maidens never escaped, but one came away, and was ever after- 
wards dumb, so that she could not describe what had happened 
during her absence. The Shee Well once ran away. Wild, 
wicked men formerly lived on the banks of the Ewenny and 
Ogmore Rivers. They never mowed the meadows nor sowed 
the fields, but lived by robbery and murder, so that often human 
blood tainted the waters of the rivers. Because of this neglect 
the Shee WeU mourned and lamented, and one day it suddenly 
receded into the hills. The low cavern of the well became quite 
dry, and not a trickle of water could be seen. The robbers 
heard the moanings and groanings of the well, and said : " What 
matter is it ? The ogre of the Shee Well cannot deprive us 
of the fish in the stream.*' But when they looked where 
the stream flowed to meet the rivers, nothing was found 
but snakes and toads. When the men went to the Ewenny and 

2 — 2 


Ogmore Rivers, they found that the ogre of the Shee Well had 
charmed away all the fish. Then the robbers were penitent, 
and went humbly to the cavern from which the Shee Well sent 
forth its stream, and begged the ogre to let the waters return. 
The ogre promised to do this if the men agreed to till the lands, 
cultivate the fields, and mow the meadows. Then the robbers 
made the cavern and basin of the well sweet and clean, and 
planted trees around, so that the place looked cool and inviting. 
The people danced and rejoiced in honour of the return of the 
Shee Well, and it was said that old men and women grew young 
again for joy. 

Near Nantle there is a spring near a brook, and sometimes 
sorrowful cries and wailings are heard there. They are sup- 
posed to come from this deep unseen spring, where a water- 
woman lives in imprisonment for her sins. The cries are 
ominous of death in the parish. [^4. B.]. 

Llandowror is a corruption from Llandyfrgwyr, meaning the 
" church of the water-men.*' These men were the seven sons of 
Mainawe Matheu, who were called " water-men." They were 
bom on the water, escaped from the water, and on land were 
maintained by " the fishes of the water." Mystery attended 
their origin, and they devoted themselves to a religious life. 
In old age the seven brothers went out on the water in a boat, 
and as they never returned mystery enshrouded their death. 
[A, B. and Family Manuscripts.] 

The celebrated Swallow Falls at Capel Curig, Carnarvonshire, 
are supposed to keep imprisoned the turbulent spirit of Sir John 
Wynne for his many sins and wickedness. They say he is 
bound hard and fast to the bottom of the fall, and in his frantic 
efforts to get free from his fetters he makes terrible noises and 
cries as the cascades rush over him. 

In the bed of the river under Haverfordwest Bridge a wicked 
man's spirit is said to be bound for a thousand years. When 
the time has expired, the most important man in the town is to 
release him. But as nobody knows when the thousand years 
began, it is impossible to say when they will expire, so the spirit 
$till remains in " durance vile." 

In the days of old, when ghosts were "laid," spirits were 
driven to a pool of water, a lake, a weU, or the sea. Occasionally 


they were allowed to return from their watery prison by the 
length of a grain of corn or barley a day. It took ages to accom- 
plish this journey. In the Vale of Neath, Glamorgan, an old 
story was formerly told of a spirit doomed to one of the pools 
of the Hepste, and returning in the shape of a frog. 

In some of the old nursery stories told in various parts of 
Wales a beautiful clear fountain was described, the waters of 
which arose at the sound of singing, and fell when silence 
succeeded the song. 



FIRE, like water, is closely connected with Welsh lore. 
Both were regarded as purifying, healing, and, in the days 
of old, more or less sacred. Ceremonies and super- 
stitions with reference to fire were numerous and interesting. 
^ The Baltan, or sacred fire of the Druids, was obtained direct 
from the sun, and by means of it all the hearth fires in Britain 
were rekindled. These fires were accompanied by feasts in 
honour of Bel, or Beli, the Celtic deity of light, and in Druidical 
days they were carried out with much pomp and ceremony. 

In later times the Baltan, known by its corrupted name of 
Bealtine, or Beltane, was associated with much superstition and 
revels. The most important of the Beltane fires was held on 
the first of May, but sometimes on the second or third of that 
month. Midsummer was another occasion. Among the places 
in South Glamorgan where the latest Beltane fires were kindled 
were the common land beside the Well of St. John, Newton 
Nottage, Porthcawl, in 1828-1830, in Cowbridge about 1833, 
near Nash Manor in 1835, and at Llantwit Major between 1837 
and 1840. The following information with reference to the 
Beltane fires was given me in these words : 

" The fire was done in this way : Nine men would turn their 
pockets inside out, and see that every piece of money and all 
metals were off their persons. Then the men went into the 
nearest woods, and collected sticks of nine different kinds of 
trees. These were carried to the spot where the fire had to be 
built. There a circle was cut in the sod, and the sticks were set 
crosswise. All around the circle the people stood and watched 
the proceedings. One of the men would then take two bits of 



oak, and rub them together until a flame was kindled. This 

was applied to the sticks, and soon a large fire was made. 

Sometimes two fires were set up side by side. These fires, 

whether one or two, were called coelcerth, or bonfire. Round 

cakes of oatmeal and brown meal were split in four, and placed 

in a small flour-bag, and everybody present had to pick out a 

portion. The last bit in the bag fell to the lot of the bag-holder. 

Each person who chanced to pick up a piece of brown-meal cake 

was compelled to leap three times over the flames, or to run 

thrice between the two fires, by which means the people thought 

they were sure of a plentiful harvest. Shouts and screams of 

those who had to face the ordeal could be heard ever so far, and 

those who chanced to pick the oatmeal portions sang and 

danced and clapped their hands in approval, as the holders of 

the brown bits leaped three times over the flames, or ran three 

times between the two fires. As a rule, no danger attended 

these curious celebrations, but occasionally somebody's clothes 

caught fire, which was quickly put out. The greatest fire of the 

year was the eve of May, or May i, 2, or 3. The Midsummer 

Eve fire was more for the harvest. Very often a fire was built 

on the eve of November. The high ground near the Castle 

Ditches at Llantwit Major, in the Vale of Glamorgan, was a 

familiar spot for the Beltane on May 3 and on Midsummer 

Eve. I have also heard my grandfather and father say that 

in times gone by the people would throw a calf in the fire when 

there was any disease among the herds. The same would be 

done with a sheep if there was anything the matter with a flock. 

I can remember myself seeing cattle being driven between two 

fires to ' stop the disease spreading.' When in later times it 

was not considered humane to drive the cattle between the 

fires, the herdsmen were accustomed to force the animals over 

the wood ashes to protect them against various ailments. 

Sometimes the Beltane fire was Ughted by the flames produced 

by stone instead of wood friction. Charred logs and faggots 

used in the May Beltane were carefully preserved, and from them 

the next fire was lighted. May fires were always started with 

old faggots of the previous year, and midsummer from those of 

the last summer. It was unlucky to build a midsummer fire 

from May faggots. People carried the ashes left after these 


fires to their homes, and a charred brand was not only effectual 
against pestilence, but magical in its use. A few of the ashes 
placed in a person's shoes protected the wearer from any great 
sorrow or woe.*' 

It was said that Gwythyr, the son of Greidawl, fought with 
Gwyn ab Nudd for the fair Cordelia, daughter of Lear, every 
first of May, and they were to continue doing so until the day of 
doom. The ultimate conqueror was to be the winner of the 
maiden.* May Day contests were probably held in com- 
memoration of this old belief. 

May Day festivals in later times were survivals of the old 
Beltane fire celebrations. 

On the morning of May Day— that is, at the first gUmmer of 
dawn — the youths and maidens in nearly every parish in Wales 
set out to the nearest woodlands. The gay procession con- 
sisted of men with horns and other instruments, which were 
played, while vocalists sang the songs of May-time. When 
the merry party reached the woodlands each member broke a 
bough off a tree, and decorated the branch with flowers, unless 
they were already laden with May blossoms. A tall birch-tree 
was cut down, and borne on a farm waggon drawn by oxen into 
the village. At sunrise the young people placed the branches 
of May beside the doors or in the windows of their houses. 
This was followed by the ceremony of setting up the May-pole 
on the village green. The pole was decorated with nosegays 
and garlands of flowers, interspersed with bright-coloured 
ribbon bows, rosettes, and streamers. Then the master of the 
ceremonies, or the leader of the May dancers, would advance 
to the pole, and tie a gay-coloured ribbon around it. He was 
followed by aU the dancers, each one approaching the pole and 
t3dng a ribbon around it until a certain number had been tied. 
The dance then began, each dancer taking his or her place 
according to the order in which the ribbons had been arranged 
around the pole. 

The dance was continued without intermission until the 
party was tired, and then other dancers took their places. 

The games or May dances were called ** Cadi'r Fedwin " in 
South Wales, but in North Wales they were known as " Y 
♦ "Mabinogion," pp. 251. 263. 


Fedwin, neu y Ganghen Haf." These dances and May feasts 
were very popular in all parts of Wales. 

At these festivities a May beverage was distributed among 
the visitors. Sometimes this drink consisted of metheglin or 
mead alone, but frequently it was made of herbs, including 
woodruff. Elderberry and rhubarb wines were popular on 
these occasions, while among the men beers of various kinds 
were used. 

On May Day morning a curious custom was prevalent in 
Wales until about forty years ago. The young men of the 
parish decked a large bunch of rosemary with white ribbons, 
and placed it at the bedroom windows of the maidens they 
admired. In some places people who wished to insult or annoy 
any enemy took a horse's head, and fastened it to the latch of 
the door. Sometimes a man did this to " spite " a girl, and 
vice versa. On this day effigies were carried about the villages. 
These would be named after any man or woman who had made 
himself or herself notorious, ridiculous, or scandalous. The 
effigy was greeted with laughter, shouts of derision, and pelted 
with various missiles. This was done so late as the sixties. 

In Wales, as in England, the May Day festivities were not 
complete without the customary fight between Summer and 

An aged Welshman described the battle as conducted in 
South Wales in the following way : " When I was a boy, two 
companies of men and youths were formed. One had for it$ 
captain a man dressed in a long coat much trimmed with fur, 
and on his head a rough fur cap. He carried a stout stick of 
blackthorn and a kind of shield, on which were studded tufts of 
wool to represent snow. His companions wore caps and 
waistcoats of fur decorated with balls of white wool. These 
men were very bold, and in songs and verse proclaimed the 
virtues of Winter, who was their captain. The other company 
had for its leader a captain representing Summer. This man 
was dressed in a kind of white smock decorated with garlands 
of flowers and gay ribbons. On his head he wore a broad- 
brimmed hat trimmed with flowers and ribbons. In his hand 
he carried a willow-wand wreathed with spring flowers and tied 
with ribbons. All these men marched in procession, with their 


captain on horseback heading them, to an appropriate place. 
This would be on some stretch of common or waste land. There 
a mock encounter took place, the Winter company flinging 
straw and dry underwood at their opponents, who used as their 
weapons birch branches, willow-wands, and young ferns. A 
good deal of horse-play went on, but finally Summer gained the 
mastery over Winter. Then the victorious captain represent- 
ing Summer selected a May King and the people nominated a 
May Queen, who were crowned and conducted into the village. 
The remainder of the day was given up to feasting, dancing, 
games of all kinds, and, later still, drinking. Revelry continued 
through the night until the next morning.*' 

On May Day servants change their places in Wales ; half- 
yearly rents are paid, farms are taken, and house agreements 
and leases are signed. Llantwit Major, in Glamorgan, was 
renowned for a celebration held from time immemorial on 
May 3. It was called Llantwit^s Anwyl, or Darling or Pet 
Day. Tradition states that an Irish pirate named O'Neil had 
for many years committed great havoc along the coast. Both 
side^ of the Bristol Channel suffered at his hands, and many 
schemes were arranged to punish the offender. By-and-by 
the women of Llantwit set their wits working, and with success. 
The best-looking matrons and maidens in the town dressed 
themselves up in fine raiment, and went down to the meadows 
near Colhugh Point. There they danced and sang and held 
festivity until O'Neil and his men appeared in the offing. It 
was well known that the Irish pirate was exceedingly sus- 
ceptible to the charms of women. Therefore, when he landed 
at Colhugh, he and his men hastened to join the fair ladies. 
So well were the pirates received, and so kindly were they 
treated, that the afternoon passed quickly. While in the 
midst of the dance one of the girls escaped without being 
noticed. She roused the men of Llantwit, and before O'Neil 
and his companions were aware of it they were surrounded 
and captured. The story goes that O'Neil was tied to a stake 
and burnt, while his companions were slain. 

In commemoration of the occasion an effigy of the pirate 
was set up annually in Colhugh meadows and burnt. At the 
same time a King and Queen were chosen, and the usual fes- 


tivities were carried out. Mrs. Wrentmore, a local lady of 
wealth and lands, and Mrs. Jenny Deere, a native of the town, 
were among the last Queens of the revels until they ceased, 
about 1850-1855. The Independent Order of Oddfellows then 
celebrated " Llantwit's Anwyl Day " by church parade and a 
dinner, and this was continued until the year 1907, when, like 
many other relics of the past, it went into oblivion. 

• The ancient tradition of O'Neil and his men probably owed 
its origin to something more than repeated acts of piracy. In 
the ceremony it is possible that the effigy of O'Neil represented 
winter or death, and the expulsion of one or both at the 
approach of summer and immortality. When the effigy was 
burnt the people sang at first sad and melancholy dirges, 
which, when the May King and Queen appeared, were followed 
by gay ballads and songs of rejoicing. 

Midsummer fires and festivals resembled those of May. 
They were held on St. John's Eve and Day. Three or nine 
different kinds of wood and the charred faggots carefully pre- 
served from the previous midsummer were necessary to build 
this fire, which was generally done on rising ground. Into 
this fire various herbs were thrown, and girls with bunches of 
three or nine different kinds of flowers would take the offered 
hands of boys who wore flowers in their buttonholes and hats, 
and jump together over the midsummer fire. Wild merry- 
makings these were, and the young people threw the flowers 
from their posies, hats, hair, and buttonholes into the heart of 
the flame. Roses and wreaths of various flowers were hung 
over the doors and windows on St. John's Eve and Day. 

Describing a midsummer fire, an old inhabitant, bom in 
1809, remembered being taken to different hills in the Vale 
of Glamorgan to see festivities in which people from all parts 
of the district participated. She was at that time about four- 
teen, and old enough to retain a vivid recollection of the cir- 
cumstances. People conveyed trusses of straw to the top of 
the hill, where men and youths waited for the contributions. 
Women and girls were stationed at the bottom of the hill. 
Then a large cart-wheel was thickly swathed with straw, and 
not an inch of wood was left in sight. A pole was inserted 
through the centre of the wheel, so that long ends extended 


about a yard on each side. If any straw remained, it was 
made up into torches at the top of tall sticks. At a given 
signal the wheel was lighted, and sent rolling downhill. If 
this fire-wheel went out before it reached the bottom of the 
hill, a very poor harvest was promised. If it kept lighted all 
the way down, and continued blazing for a long time, the 
harvest would be exceptionally abundant. Loud cheers and 
shouts accompanied the progress of the wheel. 

Christmas, like Midsummer, had its fire associations. In 
many parts of Wales it is still customary to keep part of the 
Yule-log until the following Christmas Eve " for luck." It is 
then put into the fireplace and burnt, but before it is con- 
sumed the new log is put on, and thus " the old fire and the 
new " bum together. In some families this is done from force 
of habit, and they cannot now tell why they do it ; but in the 
past the observance of this custom was to keep witches away, 
and doubtless was a survival of fire-worship. 

In the days of old Christmastide festivities extended into 
several weeks. Preparations for burning the Christmas log 
and for the various feasts were extensive and often elaborate. 
Then the bards and musicians of the Principality were active, 
and many kinds of amusements and entertainments were 
arranged. Nearly all the old Christmas customs have become 
obsolete, but the singing and literary festivals stiU remain in 
the form of local eisteddfodau. The old-time revelry has 
vanished, and with it the bringing in of the Christmas log ; the 
quaint morris or merry dancers, with the Ader5m Pig Llwyd, 
or " Bird with the Grey Beak '*; the Mari Llwyd, or " Holy 
Mary "; and the wassailing amusements and festivities in con- 
nection with the New Year and Twelfth Night, or Old Christ- 
mas Day. In Wales burning torches were greatly in evidence 
with the Christmas log. 

The morning watch to celebrate the birth of Christ was 
known as the Plygain. This early service was held in aU the 
parish churches in Wales at four o'clock in the morning of 
December 25. It was continued until about the years 1850- 
1856, and in some localities a few years later. The churches 
were brilliantly illuminated and beautifully decorated ; a short 
service was held, and carols were afterwards sung. It is sin- 


gular to note that when the Established Church discontinued 
the Plygain, it was held in Nonconformist chapels, and the 
services were conducted with great fervour every year. The 
Wesleyan Methodists were among the last to celebrate the 
Plygain, which, translated, means the early mom or dawn. 

A curious custom was included in the Christmas festivities 
in many parts of Wales. On Christmas Eve a bowl of hot 
beer, sweetened with sugar and flavoured with spices, was pre- 
pared by the master of the household, while the mistress 
brought forward a basket containing a cake. The bowl and 
the basket were decorated with evergreens, holly, and ivy- 
wreaths. A procession was then formed, and the bowl and 
basket were carried in state to the stall of the finest ox belong- 
ing to the family. There the men of the household stood on 
one side, and the women were arranged opposite them. The 
mistress then placed the cake on the horns of the ox, and the 
master stirred the beer, drank a mouthful, and passed the bowl 
on after the fashion of the loving-cup. Meanwhile, a Welsh 
toast was heartily sung. While all this was going on, one or 
two persons in the assembly carefully noted the behaviour of 
the ox. If the animal remained quiet and peaceful, it was a 
token of good luck during the ensuing year. If, on the con- 
trary, the animal became restless and angry, bad luck was 
supposed to follow. As it might be expected, the cake would 
not remain very long upon the horns of the ox. If it fell upon 
the side where the women stood, it was regarded as a token of 
feminine triumph during the ensuing year. 

It may be mentioned that the bowls used on these occasions 
generally held about a gallon of beer. Some of these bowls had 
eighteen handles attached to them, and it was customary for 
the company to hold the handles while a Christmas carol was 

Carol-singing was, and is still, popular in many parts of Wales 
during the Christmas holidays. Formerly these carols were 
sung to the accompaniment of the harp, and sometimes the 
violin. Frequently they were sung without any instrumental 

In the early part of the nineteenth century people firmly 
believed that between eleven and twelve on Christmas Eve and 


the first hour of Christmas Day the cattle knelt down in 
reverence. But the person who saw them would die within a 

When the Christmas log is burning you should notice the 
people's shadows on the wall. Those shadows that appear 
without heads belong to the persons who are to die within a 

If you tie wet straw-bands or hay-bands around your fruit- 
trees on Christmas Eve, they will yield plentifully during the 
next year. 

If a hoop falls off a cask on Christmas Eve, somebody in the 
household will die within a year. 

A bright and sunny Christmas foretokens full granaries and 
barns. A dull and cloudy Christmas promises empty granaries 
and bams. 

If a spinster on Christmas Eve pours melted lead into cold 
water, it will turn into the shape of the tools her future husband 
will use. A doctor will be represented by a lancet, a writer by a 
quill, a surveyor by a chain, a mason by a mallet, and so on. 

Put a small heap of salt on the table on Christmas Eve. If 
it melts during the night you will die within a year. If it 
remains dry and undiminished, you will live to reach a very 
old age. 

It is considered unlucky to hang up the mistletoe in houses, 
or to decorate rooms with holly before Christmas Eve. 

The morning after Twelfth Night all the Christmas holly and 

mistletoe is burnt. It is unlucky to keep it up longer, or to 

destroy it in any other way. Everybody tastes as many 

JChristmas puddings as possible during the holidays " for luck.*' 

The morris dancers formed a merry throng in the Christmas 
festivities. The party consisted of three, seven, or nine men, 
dressed as gaily and grotesquely as possible. Caps of any kind 
of animal's skin and short jackets were worn, all decorated with 
gay knots of ribbon. Sometimes the head and brush of a fox 
were prominent. Bells and any jingling ornaments were worn 
around the wrists and ankles, and frequently one or two of the 
party appeared as Megan, a hag of the night, in female dress. 
This party, accompanied by a harpist or fiddler and torch- 
bearers, went from house to house where money was to be 


obtained, and danced a reel peculiar to Wales. The feet kept 
time with the music, and occasionally two of the dancers would 
hold each other's hands, and spin round and round in bewilder- 
ing fashion. A Welsh jig and an old-style hornpipe were 
included in the amusements, and these were often cleverly 
performed by experts. A dance resembling the modem cake- 
walk was also given. 

The Aderyn Pig Llwyd, or the " Bird with the Grey Beak," 
sometimes accompanied the morris dancers, but frequently 
went the round of the district on its own account. This 
exhibition consisted of the skeleton frame of a horse's head 
with artificial eyes and ears. The head was decorated with 
ribbons, coloured paper, and almost any kind of finery. This 
was carried upon the head and shoulders of a man wearing a 
long fantastic robe adorned with tinsel. It was the duty of this 
man to imitate the actions of a horse, and much amusement was 
caused when the creature kicked, or reared, or curvetted. The 
horse was attended by a groom, who held the reins and kept the 
animal within bounds. This was often difficult, but productive 
of much fun and merriment. After going through a perform- 
ance, the groom placed a hat in the horse's mouth for any con- 
tribution that might be bestowed. The procession was accom- 
panied by men holding burning brands. 

The Mari Llwyd, or " Holy Mary," was an exhibition made up 
of mummers dressed in aU kinds of garments. The most promi- 
nent figure was a man covered with a white sheet. On his head 
and shoulders he bore a horse's head, fantastically adorned with 
coloured ribbons, papers, and brilliant streamers. Youths 
bearing burning brands, and small boys dressed up as bears, 
foxes, squirrels, and rabbits, helped to swell the throng. In 
some parts of Wales, in the far past, it was customary for a 
woman to impersonate the Virgin, while Joseph and the infant 
Christ were prominent. But in later times these three char- 
acters were omitted, and a kind of Punch and Judy exhibition 
was substituted. The Mari Llwyd was always accompanied by a 
large party of men, several of whom were specially selected on 
account of their quick wit and ready rhymes. The mode of 
proceeding was always the same. All doors in the parish were 
safely shut and barred when it was known that the Mari Llwyd 


commenced her itinerary. When the party reached the doors 
of a house an earnest appeal was made for permission to sing. 
When this was granted, the company began recounting in song 
the hard fate of mankind and the poor in the dark and cold days 
of winter. Then the leading singer would beg those inside to 
be generous with their cakes and beer and other good things. 
It was customary for the householder to lament and plead that, 
alas ! times had been bad with him, and he had little to spare. 
Then began a kind of conflict in verse, sung or recited, or both. 
Riddles and questions were asked in verse inside and outside the 
house. Sarcasm, wit, and merry banter followed, and if the 
Mari Llwyd party defeated the householder by reason of 
superior wit, the latter had to open the door and admit the 
conquerors. Then the great bowl of hot spiced beer was pro- 
duced, and an ample supply of cakes and other good things. 
The feast began and continued for a short time, and when the 
Mari Llwyd moved away the leader found contributions of 
money in his collecting bag. 

Many specimens of the introductory rhymes, the challenge 
from without, the reply from within, together with the verses 
sung when the Mari Llwyd entered the house, and afterwards 
departed, are still preserved and well remembered. 

When the Mari Llwyd was badly treated, the revenge of the 
party was boisterous. In some places the men forced an 
entrance, raked the fire out of the kitchen grate, looted the 
larder, and committed other depredations. 

Some people think that the bony horse's head used in what is 
called the " Mari Llwyd " celebration was an emblem of death, 
or a symbol of the dead, and not a remnant of pre-Reformation 
days and the Virgin Mary. 

I have been told that in the seventeenth and early eighteenth 
centuries this celebration was called in many parts of Wales the 
** Marw Llwyd," meaning the " Grey Death,'* a symbol of the 
dying or dead year. 

The skeleton head and shoulders and the skull of the horse, 
accompanied by a procession of sight -seers and dancers, point 
to the Mari Llwyd celebrations as a lingering vestige of ancient 
horse worship common to the Celts, Teutons, and Slavs. 

In the far past the Mari Llwyd was looked forward to with 


pleasure, but in later times it was surrounded by a riotous 
throng, and became so degenerate in some places that it was 
regarded with terror. 

The city of Llandaff annually provides the performers for a 
Mari Llwyd kind of Christmas waits, and to this several old 
Welsh customs are attached. Trecynon, Aberdare, had its 
Mari Llwyd as late as, if not later than, 1900. Llantwit Major 
has its Mari Llwyd, which visits several places in the Vale of 
Glamorgan ; but here the custom is becoming spasmodic, and 
is not carried out every winter. There are, doubtless, other 
places in the Principality in which the old custom still sur- 

But the genuine wits, the ready rhymesters, and the clever 
leaders and mummers of the Mari Llwyd, are no longer to be 

In connection with fire superstitions there are many curious 
survivals. People in out-of-the-way places, when troubled in 
mind, touch the stone over the chimney-piece, and afterwards 
throw a handful of dry earth into the fire. As it burns, they 
whisper the cause of their trouble to the flames, and this is 
supposed to avert any impending evil ; or they kneel down 
beside a low-placed oven or stand by the high, old-fashioned 
ones, and whisper any secret or trouble to the bottom of the 

Here may be mentioned a curious habit of the old women 
who bake their own bread in ancient ovens which are heated 
with wood. When cleaning them out, they take very good 
care to leave some of the wood ashes, together with a small 
charred stump, inside. When the next fire is to be lighted, 
the old stump is first ignited, and the new faggots are thrown 
on, so that all burn together. This has been done for genera- 
tions, and in one instance personally known to me, the aged 
great-grandmother sees that the custom is duly observed at 
the present day when baking-fires are lighted. 

The people say, while a fire bums on the hearth lightning 
will not strike the house. Never leave a frying-pan on the 
fire without something in it, or else the wife of the house will 
have puckers in her face. If the town clock strikes while the 
church bells are ringing there will soon be a fire in the parish. 



When the fire under the oven hisses, there will be quarrels in 
the house. If sparks of fire fly from the candle when lighted, 
the person they go towards will get money that day. A 
crackling fire betokens strife ; a dull fire betokens sorrow\ 
When there is a hollow in the fire, people say a grave will soon 
be dug for a member of the family. When the fire is slow in 
lighting, they say " the devil is sitting on top of the chimney," 
or " is in the chimney.*' 



SIGNS and symbols of earthly beings are nxingled in the folk- 
lore of Wales with the stars, and the names of many dis- 
tinguished heroes, heroines, and giants are to be found 
connected with the silent and pathless heavens. 

The Via Lactea, or Milky Way, is known to the Welsh as 
Caer Gwydion or Gwydion's Circle, and the other constella- 
tions as foUows : the Northern Crown is the Circle of Arianrod ; 
the Lyre is Arthur's Harp ; the Great Bear is Arthur's Plough- 
tail ; Orion is Arthur's Yard ; the Pleiades is the Group of 
Theodosius ; Cassiopeia's Chair is the Circle of Don ; the 
Ecliptic is the circle of Sidi ; the Twins is the Large Homed 
Oxen. The rest are named thus : the Smaller Plough-handle, 
the Great Ship, the Bald Ship, the Triangle, the Grove of 
Blodenwedd, the Chair of Teymon, the Chair of Eiddionydd^ 
the Conjunction of a Hundred Circles, the Camp of Elmur, the 
Soldier's Bow, the Hill of Dinan, the Eagle's Nest, Bleiddyd's 
Lever, the Wind's Wing, the Trefoil, the Cauldron of 
Ceridwen, the Bend of Teivi, the Great Limb, the Small Limb, 
the Great Plain, the White Fork, the Woodland Boar, the 
Muscle, the Hawk, the Horse of Llyr, Elffyn's Chair, and 
Olwen's HaU. 

The Pleiades were known as the Twr Tewdws and the Group 
of Theodosius. They were described as the " agitated, thickly 
collected, cheering, and solacing stars." 

The Milky Way was supposed to be peopled by the souls of 
heroes,* kings, princes, and all just and honourable persons, 
who thronged the Circle of Gwydion. The brighter the stars 

♦ Davies, *' Mythology," p. 262. 

35 3—2 



in this part of the heavens, the more exalted the character 
whose soul had entered the charmed circle. 

Gwydion of the Milky Way has been identified with Hermes, 
and yet he appears similar in many respects to Wodan of Norse 
fame. Gwydion, the son of Don, invented writing, practised 
magical arts as a renowned magician or wizard, and was the 
builder of the rainbow. His Caer, or fort, was by his magical 
power transported from earth to heaven, and the great path- 
way leading to and from it is known to the English as the 
Milky Way. 

Gwydion, the most intellectual of the Welsh heroes, is 
described as being able by means of his magic wand or rod to 
be always surrounded by a glorious host, whose deeds of 
chivalry and daring entitle them to places in the great Caer of 
the heavens. 

With reference to Arthur's Plough-taU, a farmer living in 
the Vale of Glamorgan said his grandfather always declared 
that when the tail of the plough was low down bread would 
be cheap, but when the tail was high bread would be dear. 
The same farmer pointed out the stars forming Orion's belt 
as the " Mowers.'* This, perhaps, was because the constella- 
tion rises about the hay-harvest. 

In the mythology of Wales Hu Gadarn, or Hu the Mighty, 
the primitive leader, hero, and law-giver of the ancient Britons, 
was deified when earthly honours were exhausted. He is 
described as inhabiting the sun. His symbols were a wren 
with outspread wings, which conveyed a similar meaning as 
the dove in Syria and other parts of the East, and an ox. 
His spouse, elevated to the rank of a goddess, appears under 
the name of Ceridwen, or Cariadwen,* and her symbols were 
a boat and a cow. Hu received the homage due to the sun, 
and Ceridwen received that due to the moon. The subordinate 
deities were the three Bull Demons of Britain. Their names 
were the Ellyll Gwidawl, or the Demon of the Whirling Stream ; 
the Llyr Merini, or the Demon of the Flowing Sea ; and the 
Ellyll Gurthmwl Wledig, or the Demon of the Earth. 
VThe sun was personified under various names. He was 

* This spelling was used in the fourteenth century (lolo Manuscripts, 
p. 79). 


Arthur, the controller ; Taliesun, the light-giver ; Merddyn, the 
hero of the sea ; Morgan, when risen from the sea-barge of 
Ceridwen ;* and Dofydd, as the conqueror of Black Wings, or 
Satan, known to the Ancient Britons as Avagddu. The barge 
of Cariadwen is known as the Llong Foci, and the crescent 
moon was regarded as its emblem in the sky. In Welsh the 
crescent moon is called Llun, and Monday, Moonday, is known 
as Dydd Llun. Cariadwen, the Queen of the Heavens, is sup- 
posed to protect the sacred barge or boat from the fury of 
Black Wings. The Druids asserted that the personified sun 
was mortally wounded at noon on the shortest day of the year. 
All through the afternoon the sun struggled to live, but at 
sunset he perished and fell into the water beyond the horizon. 
Then the divine soul of the sun escaped into the barge of 
Cariadwen, while Black Wings usurped the authority over the 
heavens and the earth. After that the sun was bom again, 
and arose in all his glory in the morning. 

The garden of the life-giver contained his three daughters 
and three golden apples. These three daughters correspond 
with the three personifications of the sun on March 25, June 25, 
and December 25. The golden apples growing on a tree in 
the sun-garden transmitted their juice to the Cauldron of 
Cariadwen, and thus became three drops of divine essence . 
which fertilized vegetation and entered the human system. y 

In the folk-lore of Wales the sun was supposed to hide his 
face before any great sorrow or national disaster. Eclipses 
were, therefore, regarded as ominous of wild warfare and 
danger of defeat. An ancient myth describes Hu Gadam as 
determined to punish Black Wings for his misdeeds ; but he is 
not to be found, having hidden himself under the earth. 
Cariadwen, the Moon-Mother, reveals his whereabouts, and 
Black Wings is punished. In revenge, Black Wings pursues 
the sun and the moon, and whenever a hand-to-hand encounter 
ensues an ecUpse occurs. 

A Carmarthenshire veteran said that when he was a boy all 
the people in his home district firmly believed that if a person 
went up early enough into the moimtains at any time in the 
summer, he would positively see the sun dancing. 
♦ " Welsh Archaeology," vol. ii., p. 278. 


▼ The British Druids* decreed that every official act was to 
be discharged " in the eye of the Ught and the face of the sun/'f 
Thus, their great convocations were held at the solstices and 
equinoxes, while the minor congresses were held at the new 
and full moon. All Druidic services and rites were celebrated 
between sunrise and sunset. 

At the spring festival of the Druids the Baltan, or sacred 
fire, was brought down from the sun. No hearth in Britain 
was held sacred until the fire on it had been rekindled from 
the Bdltan. This festival became the Easter season of Chris- 
tianity. The midwinter convocation of the Druids — who then 
cut the mistletoe with a golden crescent or sickle from the 
sacred oak — represented our Christmas. The three berries of 
the mistletoe represented the Deity in His triple dignity. The 
growth of the mistletoe on the oak was the symbol of the 
/incarnation of the Deity in man. 

In Welsh folk-stories all magical herbs are represented as 
gathered before stmrise. All healing waters should be drawn 
and quaffed before stmrise. 

A superstition of very old standing was to say of the sim : 
*' He is going to rest, and he is awaking.'* In his morning 
splendour on great festivals the sun was always described as 
'* dancing.'* This evidently gave rise to the expression pre- 
valent in many parts of rural Wales, " I can see the sun 
dancing before my eyes," meaning that it glittered. 

" Toriad-y-dydd " (the '' break of day") and " Y seren ddyd " 
(the *' day-star ") waited upon the sim, and heralded its rising. 

In some superstitions the sun is described as laughing and 
being joyful. 

People bom at sunrise were regarded as likely to be very 
clever. Those bom in the afternoon or about sunset are 
described as lazy. 

During an eclipse of the sun people in Wales covered their 
wells, fearing the water would turn impure. 

May-flowers gathered just before sunrise keep freckles away. 

Dragons and flying serpents were supposed to count their 
gold at sunrise. 

The new moon is considered propitious for all fresh under- 

♦ Davies, ** Mythology/* p. 270. 
t " Welsh Sketches/' 1853, p. 19. 


takings. Thus, in Welsh lore it is mentioned that if you move 
into a new house or change from one residence to another at 
the time of new moon, you will have " plenty bread and to 
spare/* Again, if you count your money at the time of new 
moon, you will never have an empty purse. 

Wedded happiness and household stores will thrive, and 
money will increase, if you gaze at the moon on the first new- 
moon night. Never look at the new moon through glass or 
trees, for it is imfortunate. 

It is lucky to cut the hair and the nails on new-moon 

If one member of a family dies at the time of new moon, 
three deaths are likely to follow. 

Healing herbs and dew should be gathered at new moon. 

Trenches made at new moon time will fall together. 

To turn your back to the new moon when wishing for any- 
thing is imlucky. 

Wood cut at new moon is hard to split ; at the fuU, it is 
easily cut. 

The full moon, as opposed to the new, was propitious to all 
operations needing severance. 

Grass should be mown at the full of the moon. In this way 
the hay dries quickly. 

If a bed is filled with feathers when the moon has passed the 
full, the newly plucked feathers will lie at rest. 

Trenches made at fuU moon will grow wider and, deeper. 

Winter crops must not be sown in the moon's idle or third 

The spots on the moon are accounted for in the following 
way in Wales : A man went out gathering faggots of wood on 
Sunday, and God punished him by transporting him to the 
moon. There he is doomed to walk for ever with a large 
bundle of sticks on his back. In some parts they say his dog 
went with him, and may be seen at his heels. 

The colour of the new and full moons had certain indications. 

William Cynwal, a Welsh bard of the sixteenth century, 
composed a rhyme, which, translated into English, runs thus : 

" Observe, ye swain, where'er ye stand, 
The pale-blue moon will drench the land ; 
C3nithia red portends much wind ; 
When fair, the weather fair you'll find." 


The pale new moon is indicative of rain, especially when 
surrounded by a cloud film. 

A red full moon means a coming storm of wind. 

A single " ring," or halo, around the moon was indicative 
of a storm ; a double ring meant " very rough *' weather ; a 
triple ring indicated a spell of unusual weather. If, when 
three days old, the moon appears very bright and clear, fine 
weather is promised. A clear moon denotes frost, but a dull 
moon indicates rain. If the new moon looks high, cold weather 
may be expected ; when it seems to be low down, warm weather 
is promised. When the moon is clearly seen in the daytime, 
cool days may be expected. If the new moon appears with 
points upwards, the month will be dry ; if her horns point 
downward, the month will be more or less rainy. The Welsh 
say, when the moon looks like a golden boat — is on her back — 
the month will be wet. The boat-like appearance of the moon 
is possibly a renmant of the Cariadwen myth. 

It is considered very dangerous to sleep in the moonlight, 
and especially for moon-rays to fall on a sleeping child's face. 
Moonlight falling on the eyes of any sleeping person causes 
blindness, and this is difficult to cure. People say it will 
cause the person to become moonstruck, or a lunatic. If the 
moon is allowed to shine in through the pantry window, much 
crockery will be broken. If you hold a sixpence up to the 
new moon, you will never be short of money. If lovers crossed 
the moon-line together they would never be married. Fisher- 
men avoided the moon-line when setting out to sea. Never 
cross the moon-line without wishing for something. Plants, 
herbs, and flowers should not be planted at the time of the 
waning moon. Calves weaned at the time of the waning moon 
grow very lean. It is unlucky to kill a pig when the moon is 
waning. The curing will be unsatisfactory, and the meat will 
shrink in boiling, roasting, or toasting. This applies to fresh 
pork, as well as to cured bacon and ham. If in the simimer the 
new moon is seen with the old moon in her arms, the weather 
will be fine for the next quarter. Fleecy clouds across the 
face of the moon are indicative of rain. A misty moon means 
wet weather. A very red moon rising is a " sign of great heat." 
There was an old belief in Wales that all limatics had been 


moonstruck in infancy, and incessant talkers were " moon 

Cader Ceridwen, the chair or seat of Ceridwen, is a name for 
the rainbow in Wales. In the days of old the Welsh believed 
that the souls of heroes, Kings, Princes, and just people entered 
heaven by means of the rainbow, which was built by Gwydion, 
the son of Don. By some it was formerly called God's Chair, 
in which He sat watching those who entered heaven. In the 
early part of the nineteenth century people considered it very 
imlucky to pass imder the rainbow. It was an omen of im- 
pending death. In some places tnere was an old story that 
if you passed imder the rainbow, or it fell between you and 
other people, yom* sex would be changed. Where the rain- 
bow sprang out of the groimd, a pot of gold or some kind of 
treasmre was to be found. The Welsh say that the rainbow 
will cease appearing before the end of the world. 

Comets were supposed to appear before the birth or death 
of a King, a Prince, or a very exalted person. The birth of 
Owain Glyndwr was said to be heralded by a comet and cmrious 
meteors, with falling stars. 

There was formerly a belief in Wales, even so late as the 
middle of the nineteenth century, that if the tail of a comet 
swept the earth the world would be burnt, and afterwards be 
effaced by a flood. The end of the world would be accom- 
plished by means of fire and water. Donati's comet struck 
terror among the rural population of Wales. 

Meteors falling like balls of fire to the earth indicated 
calamity to the nation or to some distinguished person. 
Dread followed the event. These meteors were supposed to 
form the fiery chariots in which the souls of the Druids were 
conveyed to heaven. 

A substance which fell from meteors, or was found where 
the latter had fallen, was formerly known as *' Tripa'r Ser," 
or " star-jelly.'* It was considered very fortimate to find it. 

A meteoric stone foimd by anybody was carefully kept for 
luck, and the finder would have prosperity so long as he pre- 
served it. If he gave the stone away he must expect mis- 
fortune, and if he sold it some calamity would befall him and 
his family. 


Shooting or falling stars are regarded as ominous. In some 
parts of Wales they say you should express a 'wish while the 
star falls, or you will be unlucky during the whole year. In 
other localities they say you should utter a few words of the 
Lord's Prayer '* for luck.'' 

' When shooting stars fell over a house it foretokened the 
death of one of the inmates. If they fell to the west of a town 
or village there would be sorrow therein ; if to the east, some 
pleasure or festivity may be expected. To the north they 
indicated a hard winter, and to the south an unusually warm 
summer. If they fell to the east, it would be " bad for man 
and beast." 

Thunder and lightning, above all other natural phenomena, 
were supposed, by the older inhabitants of Wales, to indicate 
the anger and punishment of God. During a thunderstorm 
old people used to say, " God is angry." 

The name Taranis is handed down as one of the Celtic deities, 
from whose name the word tar an y or thunder, was derived, 
and is still used in the Welsh language. 

A very old man remembered his grandfather saying that his 
great-grandfather, living in the end of the seventeenth century, 
used to teU a story of an ox being led up and down the fields 
when thunder brooded, and the herdsmen would implore God 
to drive the thunder away, or to send protecting rain with it. 
The same authority said there was an old belief that the 
thunderbolt dived into the earth — it was in the shape of a 
black wedge — and remained in the earth for seven or nine years, 
when it returned to the surface again. Every time it thundered 
the bolt ascended nearer the surface. If a thunderbolt or 
wedge was preserved indoors, the house would be proof against 
damage by lightning. The thunder-stone was supposed to 
possess healing and restorative powers, especially in nervous 
affections and fits, for which it was carried in the pocket. 

The Welsh still dread a thunderstorm without rain, for it is 
regarded as extremely dangerous. During the storm it was 
formerly, and still is, customary to fasten all doors and windows. 
Sometimes two sheathed knives were crossed outside a window 
to prevent the house being struck. In former years, when a 
person heard thunder for the first time in the season, he took 


a stone and tapped his forehead with it three times, to prevent 
headaches during the next twelve months. 

In the older folk-lore thunder was supposed to be caused by 
God pursuing the devil and dashing him to the underworld. 
Fearing the devil would take refuge in the house, all entrances 
were instantly closed. 

It was considered dangerous to take refuge under an oak 
during a thunderstorm, for the lightning penetrated fifty times 
deeper into it than into any other tree. Animals struck by 
lightning were considered unfit for human food, being poisonous. 
Places struck by lightning were cursed. People struck by 
lightning must have been very sinful. At one time church bells 
were rung to drive the thunder and lightning away. This 
practice was kept up in Wales until early in the nineteenth 
century. Shooting into the sky was supposed to be efficacious 
for the same purpose. The redbreast and the beetle attracted 
lightning. Glass, steel, and all ghttering articles had the same 
power. For this reason looking-glasses, pewter-vessels, and 
bright brasses were covered at the approach of thunder and 
lightning. Stonecrop was formerly planted on the roofs of 
old thatched houses to keep the thunder and lightning away. 
On many habitations in Wales the stonecrop is still to be seen, 
and also on old bams and granaries. People at one time 
gravely asserted that if a thunderbolt or lightning struck a 
building in any hamlet, village, or town, there was an evil in- 
habitant in it. When a person was struck by thunder or 
lightning, the old inhabitants said it was " God*s judgment '* 
for some secret sin or wickedness. When thunder was heard 
and lightning was seen between the first day of November and 
the last day of January, the people said the most important 
person in the parish would die within the year of the occurrence. 
The year in which thunderstorms were unusually prevalent 
was called " bad and wicked,*' and it was generally believed 
that very serious crimes were committed in it. 

Folk-lore concerning earth is not abundant, but it has its 
curiosities. It was formerly customary with farmers, upon 
changing farms, to take some earth from the place they were 
leaving to the new home. This earth was strewn here and there 
among the gardens, orchards, and lands " for luck." Some- 


times the housewife carried with her the charred stump and 
wood ashes from the last baking, to kindle the first fire in the 
Oven of the new home. [Family Collection.] 

At one time it was customary to throw a handful of earth 
over the next of kin or heir to the deceased after the funeral. 

Among the peasantry in the eighteenth century, a person 
taking a voluntary oath in the course of his daily work 
frequently swore placing a bit of turf or earth on his head. 
This was customary in Glamorgan later than in many parts of 

To get a good crop of wheat, barley, oats, or any cereal, 
farmers used to fetch some mould from three adjoining fields 
inherited by one person. This they mixed with their seeds 
before sowing a field. 

If anybody wished to overcome an enemy or discover a 
thief, he had to cut a piece of sod trodden by the suspected 
person, wrap it in a rag, then place it under his pillow. In his 
dreams the guilty person would appear. This was to be done 
three nights in succession. 

" If I wass to sink into the earth this minute," says the 
Welsh peasant-girl, in proof of the truth of her assertion, and 
*' as sure as I am standing on the earth," to prove the certainty 
of a circumstance. Again, the farm-boy says, " If the earth 
wass to swallow me up," he could not be more astonished. 

" Black " earth was, and still is, in great request for putting 
on graves without tombstones, and those with flower-beds. 

It was formerly the custom of Welsh farmers and peasants 
to obtain earth from certain important places, for the purpose 
of sprinkling it through their stables, pig-sties, gardens, and 
even their house, to avert evil. Portions of this earth were 
also strewn over the coffins and graves of their relatives and 
friends. In the eighteenth century earth from Llancarfan 
and Llantwit Major, both in the Vale of Glamorgan, was in 
much request. It was obtained in the former place from the 
Garden of St. Cadoc, and in the latter from beside the Cross 
of St. Iltutus, and from the Cor Tewdrig, formerly the C6r 
Eurgain, to the north of the parish church. 

Earth from the fissure of the Skyrrid Fawr, in the parish of 
yantheweg Sk5arid, Monmouthshire, was used for similar 


purposes. The Skyrrid is popularly known as St. MichaeFs 
Mount and the Holy Mountain. On its summit there was 
formerly a small chapel dedicated to St. Michael, and on the 
eve of that saint's day, it was the scene of many quaint and 
weird practices customary at that season. The legendary 
story of the fissure on the Skyrrid is that the mountain was rent 
asunder by the earthquake which happened at the time of the 
crucifixion of Christ. From this the Skyrrid derived the name 
of the Holy Mountain. 

St. Gowan's Chapel, in Pembrokeshire, had what was formerly 
called " sprinkling earth *' in fissures close beside it. Bardsey 
Island, Priestholme, and Holyhead in the North, and St. David's, 
Ccddy Island, and Barry Island, in the South, had earth which 
was locally in request for sprinkling purposes. 

Churchyard mould, passed through a sieve and added to 
mortar, caused the stonework to knit more strongly than if 
ordinary sifted ashes were used. 

It was at one time customary for persons suffering from 
rheumatism to be buried in earth in the churchyard. The 
patient was stripped naked, but his face was covered. He 
was then buried in a standing position for two hours, with only 
his head above the ground. If then relieved of pain, the 
process was to be repeated for the same time every day nine 
times in succession. If not quite rid of pain, the patient 
omitted the treatment for three days, resumed it on the fourth, 
and again repeated it nine times in succession. 

An expression formerly much in use in Llantwit Major and 
the Vale of Glamorgan was : " It is panwaen days with him," 
or, " He has fallen on panwaen days." Of a horse unable to 
render further services, they would say : ** He has come to pan- 
waen days at last," or, " Panwaen days have come for him " — 
that is, his fortunes have reversed, and he has fallen from good 
ground into bad ground. Y panwaen was peat -moss or bog, 
and useless or poor ground. There were patches of this 
ground in various parts of the Vale, particularly at Llancarfan, 
Llancadle, Boverton, supposed to be the Bovium of the 
Romans, and Llantwit Major, where, according to tradition, 
St. Patrick was captured and taken by pirates to Ireland. 

In former times it was customary for the farmers in spring- 


time, when they turned up the first furrow with the plough, 
to take a handful of the earth and sprinkle it in the four comers 
of the kitchen for luck " with peace and plenty/' 

Earth placed in the lining of a hat, or a small piece of turf 
fastened in the hatband, was supposed to guard a man from 
magic and witchcraft. 

It was a token of extreme scorn if anybody spat on the earth 
before another person. Formerly such an action would end 
in a " free fight " among villagers and others. 

A handful of earth flung after anybody was equivalent to 
the challenge of the thrown gauntlet. 

Late in the eighteenth century those called " witches and 
evil people,*' who wished to " destroy " an enemy, used to cut 
out a piece of turf, to which a thickness of earth was attached, 
that had been trodden by the oif ending person. This was sus- 
pended by a cord on a hook in the chimney. As it dried up the 
enemy would waste to death ! 

An old remnant of magic remained prevalent in the early part 
of the nineteenth century. This was told by an aged person 
who had seen it done. When anybody wished a relative or 
lover to come home from a distance or from abroad, it was 
customary to boil a clod of earth or turf, or the person's old 
stockings or old shoes, in a crock, and keep the water boiling 
for twelve hours, replenishing as it wastes. The person wanted 
would at once start for home. 

Gaps in the earth in any person's garden or field were said to 
foretoken death to the owner or tenant. 

When the earth sinks mysteriously in a field, or anywhere 
near the premises of anybody, it is a token of misfortune. 

A landslip was formerly avoided by children in their play, for 
they were told that such a thing never happened without 
sucking in evil men and naughty children. Deep hollows in 
fields were said to have been caused by the curses of witches 
or the bans of enemies. [Family Collection,] 



THE C^n Annwn are celebrated as spirit-hounds passing ' 
through the air in pursuit of objects of their malice, and 
their howling was regarded as an omen of death. These 
dogs have been variously described. Sometimes they appear as 
very small dogs, white as the drifted snow, with tiny ears quite 
rose-coloured inside, and eyes that glittered like brilliant moon- 
beams. In some parts of Wales they are described as being 
black and very ugly, with huge red spots, or red in body, with 
large black patches like splashes of ink. The most terrible of 
these spirit-hounds were said to be of a blood-red colour, and 
when seen were dripping with gore, while their eyes resembled 
balls of liquid fire. In some places they were known as small 
liver-coloured dogs, all " spots and spangles " of red and white, 
or ** flame-coloured.*'* 

They were heard in the " dead of night " by travellers in 
lonely districts, or by people who lived in remote places far 
away from towns. Sometimes they howled in the air with a 
wild kind of lamentation, or bayed and yelled in appalling 
chorus, to the terror of those who heard them. 

The eves of St. John, St. Martin, St. Michael, AU Saints, 
Christmas, the New Year, St. Agnes, St. David, and Good 
Friday, were important occasions for the C^^n Annwn. Then 
these dogs went in procession through the lonely lanes and by- 
ways of Wales. Sometimes they travelled in weird packs alone, 
but frequently they were guided by their master. He is de-r 
scribed as a dark, almost black, gigantic figure, with a horn slung 
around his swarthy neck, and a long hunting-pole at his back. 

♦ *' Jones of Tranch," p. 33. ^ 



In Carmarthenshire he is represented as a fleet-footed 
pedestrian, with two black hounds in a leash, and a creature, 
half wolf, half dog, behind him. There, too, the Brenin Llwyd, 
or Grey King, favours him, and receives his hounds with those 
of the Cwn Wybyr, or Dogs of the Sky, in his Court of the Mist. 

In Glamorgan, Brecon, and Radnor Arawn, the master of 
these hounds rides a grey horse, and is robed in grey. In North 
Wales he walks or rides, and is always dark and gigantic. 

In North and South Wales alike he is sometimes accompanied 
by Mallt y Nos, or Matilda of the Night, a hag who, with evil 
force, drives the dogs onward. 

If any person by accident, design, or curiosity joins these 
hounds, on one of the processional nights, *' blood falls in 
showers like rain, human bodies are torn to pieces, and death 
soon follows the victim of the nocturnal expedition"* 

Their favourite meeting-places were cross-roads, and when- 
ever their feet touched the mandrake the latter " screamed 
aloud." Sometimes they frequented the graves of those who 
before their death had in spirit form visited their last resting- 
place. On cross-roads and around graves these hounds left 
their uncanny traces in the shape of human bones, tom-up turf, 
and lumps of earth, which, when trodden upon, emitted a flame, 
with a '* strong smell of sulphur, "f 

Sometimes they were known to go in pursuit of people who 
were doomed to die within twelve months from one of the pro- 
cessional nights. Then they went quietly, stealthily, without 
so much as a faint cry to announce their approach. They were 
seen, but not heard, as they ran quickly from room to room in 
the ancient mansion or humble cottage in pursuit of their 
victim. It was stated that on certain occasions the spirits of 
those pursued people were seen running out into the night 
followed by the hideous hounds. 

An old Mid- Wales story describes the death of a very vain 
lady, who desired to be buried in her ball-dress. Her wish was 
gratified, but ever afterwards her soul was hunted by Arawn and 
his hounds. 

It was said in the past that those souls which were not good 
enough to enter heaven, nor yet bad enough to merit hell, were 

♦ ** Jones of Tranch,'* pp. 20-30. t ** Vale of Glamorgan," p. 300. 


doomed to ride about following the Cwn Annwn to the end of 
all time. The cavalcade of doomed souls included " drunkards, 
scoffers, tricksters, attorneys, parsons' wives, and witches !" 
[A. B.] 

The horses used in these processions are described as " coal- 
black, with fiery eyes that glow like furnaces, and the hunting- 
crops are of red-hot iron, while the bridles and reins are of 

Arawn, with his Cwn Annwn and fiery steeds, can be heard for 
miles, and Mallt-y-Nos, or Matilda of the Night, cries aloud 
during the chase. The story of Mallt-y-Nos, as it used to be 
told in the early part of the nineteenth century, is curious. 

There was once a beautiful but wicked Norman lady, who 
came in with Fitzhamon from Gloucester to South Wales. 
She so passionately loved riding after the hounds that once she 
exclaimed : " If I cannot hunt in heaven I would rather not go 
there.'' At her death her soul was doomed to join Arawn and 
his Cwn Annwn, and sometimes with them, or with the fiery 
steeds, or with the Cwn Wybyr, poor Mallt-y-Nos is to be seen 
as she wished, hunting through all the centuries until the end 
of time. The folk-story asserts that Matilda has long repented 
her impious wish, and for this reason her cries are often sad and 
pitiful as she runs low down beside the spirit-hounds, or takes 
an aerial flight with the Cwn Wybyr, or mounts a fiery steed, 
and rides through lonely villages on Christmas or New Year's 
Eve. [Family Collection,] 

Another form taken by this story runs thus : A maiden very 
fond of hunting was betrothed to a man who made her promise 
to give up her favourite sport as soon as she married him. For 
a year or more after her marriage she gave up all thoughts of 
hunting, but one day her husband went from home, intending 
to remain away a Uttle time. During his absence his wife could 
not resist the temptation of the chase, so, mounting a splendid 
horse, she gaily rode away to the meet. Feeling sure that none 
of her friends would diviilge her secret, she followed the hounds 
for a whole day. Coming home in the twilight, her horse threw 
her. When her husband returned soon afterwards, he found his 
wife had broken her leg. One version of the story describes the 
* ** Jones of Tranch," pp. 28, 29. 



husband throwing her out into the courtyard, where she was 
seized by a whirlwind, carried away, and doomed to ride on the 
storm for all eternity. Another version describes her husband 
seeking the advice of a local Dyn Hysbys, " a man well informed 
in matters that are dark to others, '* who by incantations 
" threw her to the winds," among which she is doomed to 
" whirl for ever and ever V [J. R.] 

So late as 1850 old people mentioned her name with bated 
breath, and referred to her as the wicked Norman lady who 
would " rather hunt than go to heaven/' 

Mallt-y-Nos was supposed to search St. Donates Castle, 
Glamorgan, once a year for the soul of Colyn Dolphyn, the 
notorious pirate. This wandering and unhappy spirit was 
sometimes seen dressed in dull green, with a hooded cloak. In 
the Vale of Glamorgan she was seen in dark red or in dark blue. 

Cross-roads appear to have been her bane, and if ever she 
chanced to reach one between Christmas Eve and Twelfth 
Night, she could be heard crying for help. Then the Cwn Wybyr 
or the Cwn Annwn would come to her assistance, and set her on 
the direct route to her haunts. 

In several instances and districts the Cwn Annwn, or Dogs 
of the Underworld, whose haunts were solitary woodlands, 
ravines, and lonely valleys, had rivals in the C^n Wybyr, or 
Dogs of the Sky, whose clamorous noises in various keys were 
startling indications of disaster. The latter frequented marshy 
places and lonely moorlands far away from the busy haunts of 
mankind. The cries of both dogs resembled those of hounds 
and huntsmen in full chase. 

The nearer these dogs were to mankind, the fainter were their 
voices ; the farther away, the louder they sounded.* Their 
voices were like those of great hounds, or of bloodhounds, 
sounding in the night very deep and hoUow. 

In Welsh mythologyf these dogs belong to Arawn, the King 
of the Underworld, who is described as a great huntsman, 
clothed in grey, and always riding a grey horse, while the dogs 
from the royal kennel were grey, with scarlet spots. This 
huntsman-king and his dogs were accused of sometimes doing 

♦ '* Jones of Tranch/' pp. 28, 29. 
t Davies, *' Mythology,*' p. 420. 


harm to mortals, and they were supposed to inflict perpetual 
torment on disembodied spirits who were doomed to ever- 
lasting wanderings on earth or in the air. 

In Welsh folk-lore these dogs when heard in packs prophesied 
disaster and doom to ancient families, and to the peasantry 
misfortune, calamity, or death. Heard singly, the dog always 
denoted sickness and death. Excepting on processional nights, 
they were seldom seen in whole packs ; but parties of them — 
three, seven, or nine — were frequently encountered. Sometimes 
a stray dog wandered from the pack and prowled the country- 
side, howling near comfortable homesteads, or in the grounds of 
castles and ancient manor-houses. 

Out of innumerable stories about the Cwn Annwn and the 
Cwn Wybyr which are to be found in every county of the 
Principality, the following have been selected : 

From Aberffraw, in Anglesey, comes the story of an evil 
fisherman, who was supposed to " brew storms,*' being chased 
by the Cwn Annwn into the sea, and was never afterwards seen. 

Merionethshire has a story of a girl who, having lost her way 
among the Berwyn Mountains, fell in with a pack of these 
hounds, and was only saved from death by repeating the Lord's 
Prayer over and over again until the creatures ran away. 

In the beautiful Vale of Clwyd an Englishman was " nearly 
killed by the Cwn Annwn," and gladly made his escape from 
Wales, saying its demons were " the curse of the country !" 

Aberdaron, in Lleyn, Carnarvonshire, had a pack that pursued 
a clergyman who from the pulpit one Sunday denounced all 
smugglers as " children of Beelzebub." . From the neighbouring 
villages homeward on several occasions the Cwn Annwn chased 
the unfortunate clergyman, and harried him so much that he 
gladly promised not to preach against smugglers any more. 

A pack of the Cwn Annwn, accompanied by Arawn, the 
master, frequented Montgomeryshire, and were said to have 
their kennels in the recesses of Plinlimmon. 

The Radnor Forest Mountains had a terrible pack of these 
hounds. They frequented a deep ravine on the road to 
Llanfihangel-nant-Melan, and many stories were formerly told 
about the depredations they accomplished in the neighbourhood 
of Old and New Radnor. [^4. B. and Family Collection.] 



All the dreary valleys of South Wales were supposed to be 
haunted by these hounds. The Vale of Taft, above Cardiff, the 
Rhondda Valley, and the Vale of Neath, were celebrated for 
these mysterious visitants, attended by the master and Mallt- 

Near Wilton Crossways, in the Vale of Glamorgan, one of 
these spirit-hounds was frequently to be seen even so late as a 
" few years ago." This creature is described as having features 
and upper part of the body of semihuman form. The other 
part and lower limbs were those of a " light-spotted dog." 
The eyes were large and " like moons," and sometimes " smoke 
came out of its mouth." This animal made unearthly bowlings, 
and " glared fiercely," rendering people senseless with his 

Another roadway in the same locality is haunted by a terrible 
coal-black dog, with eyes like balls of fire. This creature is said 
to follow people like a footpad, and to snarl and howl if any 
person halts or looks backward. 

Near Liswomey, in the vicinity of this creature's haunts, 
people so late as forty years ago spoke with bated breath of 
Entwisle and his pack of phantom hounds tearing along the 
road between Marlborough Grange and Nash Manor. 

It was gravely stated in the locality that if any unlucky 
persons coming late home from market chanced to fall in the 
way of these hoimds, their clothes were torn to pieces, they were 
left almost for dead, and the next morning it was only just 
possible for them to crawl home. 

Doubtless these spirit-hounds had to bear the blame for 
many a drunken brawl or midnight orgy of the long ago ! 

In many parts of Wales one of the Cwn Annwn is supposed to 
be seen before a death. The mysterious animal is generally 
found sitting perfectly still on the doorstep or close to the 
threshold of the house in which a person is sick, and its appear- 
ance there is a certain indication of death. 

An old manor-house in Glamorgan is haunted by a large 

black dog of the Cwn Annwn pack before a death in the family. 

It is described as large, quiet, and almost lazy in its movements. 

Sometimes it is seen in the grounds, from which gardeners and 

♦ ** Vale of Glamorgan,*' p. 40. 


gamekeepers fail to scare it. Occasionally it is found in the hall- 
way, or crouching low at the foot of the grand staircase. It 
remains on or near the premises during the illness of any 
member of the family who will ultimately die. 

A Breconshire farm-house is frequented by a white Cwn 
Annwn that mysteriously comes and goes before a death in 
the family. 

In Cardiganshire a brown creature of the pack, with white 
ears, is the bringer of evil omens, while in Carmarthenshire a 
grey hound appears to be the favourite. 

In a story formerly attached to Pwyllywrach, Glamorgan, it 
is asserted that one of the huntsmen was approaching the 
kennels one evening, when he heard the wild barking of dogs 
in the air imrnediately above his head. It was twilight, and no 
animals were at hand. The hounds in the kennels were silent. 
Presently the unseen dogs barked again, and somebody called 
out " Tally-ho-ho !'* It was more like a wail than a cry. When 
the sound was repeated the huntsman responded with a wailing 
" Tally-ho-ho-ho !'* The next moment all the pack of hounds 
in the kennels broke loose, surrounded the huntsman, and tore 
him to pieces, so that nothing but bones remained. People 
said it was the revenge of the Cwn Wybyr, whose cry the un- 
fortunate man had imitated. In after-years the peasantry 
declared that often in the night-time the cries of the huntsman 
and the baying of hounds could be heard distinctly. It was 
stated that the huntsman had forgotten to feed the hounds, 
and they fell upon him and killed him. The kennels were 
pulled down because of this calamity. The spot is still called 
" the old kennels." [/. R,] 

Long years ago people said they heard Arawn cheering his 
Cwn Annwn on the Aberdare Mountains, and in their wild 
hunting flight they trampled pedestrians to death unless the 
people got out of the way. The old story of that district 
described a bad man who would hunt even on Sunday, and for 
this desecration of the Sabbath he was banished into the air, 
where he was doomed to hunt for ever without rest. 

In some parts of Wales it was stated that Arawn and his Cwn 
Annwn hunted only from Christmas to Twelfth Night, and was 
always accompanied by a howling wind. 


Arawn left one of his hounds behind him in an old bam not 
far from Llancarfan, Glamorgan. There the hateful creature, 
who had assumed material shape, remained for three months, 
defying all attempts to dislodge him. Because the strange dog 
would not go away, people said it was one of the spirit-hounds. 
The bam was left to the dog, and everybody avoided the place. 
One night when the tempest was high, Arawn and his hounds 
were heard shouting and baying above the howling of the wind. 
Two men passing the bam saw the strange dog springing out 
and jumping with joy. It ran yelping and barking along the 
roadway, then with one wild bound vanished, and was never 
seen again. [C. D.]. 

The entrance-gate to the drive of an ancient mansion in 
Glamorgan was formerly the scene of tragedy. For three or 
four generations the head of the family had met his death by 
accident while riding to or from the hunt. The last of the 
family in the male line broke his neck near the entrance-gate on 
his return from hunting. He was a wild young man, and 
always laughed when warned of reckless riding. He was not 
coming to an " end like the others." 

After his death people said his spectre was doomed to hunt 
every night with the Cwn Annwn, and never had any rest. 
They heard him coming through the gate shouting to his 
hounds and cracking his whip, and his roaring laughter was a 
thing to remember. Loudly he went out, and was heard madly 
crossing the country. On his return he was seen silently riding 
a grey horse, whose flanks were foaming, and from whose nostrils 
flames of fire issued. Reaching the gate, he immediately 
vanished. At one time people dreaded passing the mansion 
in the evening or late at night, and when wild noises were heard, 
people said, " It's the Squire a-huntin'.'* [Family Collection.] 

Vampires were said to be dead men doomed to join Arawn 
and his C>^ Annwn. They visited the earth to suck blood 
from people and corpses. An old dower-house, long since 
turned into a farmstead in Glamorgan, had a vampire story 
attached to it. The house was evidently enlarged in Tudor 
times, and had some additions made in the reign of Queen Anne. 
In the reign of George I. it ceased to be a dower-house, and 
became a farmstead. Part of the premises were shut off at first, 


but when the next tenant came all the rooms were in occupation. 
Some of the old furniture that was bought by the ingoing tenant 
when the place ceased to be a dower-house remained. This 
furniture was distributed in various rooms, but one apartment, 
used as a guest-chamber, was wholly filled with it. A very 
pious Dissenting minister visited the farm in the eighteenth 
century, and as an honoured guest he was given the best bed- 
room. He was to stay there three or four days on his way to 
Breconshire. In those times people travelled on horseback 
everywhere, and the minister arrived on a Friday night, riding 
a grey mare. A service was to be held in the house on Saturday 
evening, and two were to be held on Sunday. On Friday night 
the minister went early to bed, and on Saturday was up " with 
the lark." Not wishing to intrude upon the early domestic 
arrangements, he sat in an old armchair of quaint design beside 
one of the windows which commanded a fine view of the sur- 
rounding country. There he remained for some time, reading 
the Bible and musing over his sermons for Sunday. When he 
got up from the chair to go downstairs, he observed that the 
back of his hand was bleeding freely. He immediately dipped 
it in his washing-basin, but it was quite a few minutes before he 
could stanch the blood, and the scar resembled teeth-marks more 
than anything else. The marks were on his left hand. This he 
bound with his handkerchief, and when he reached the break- 
fast-room the hostess- kindly asked how he had slept. " Very 
excellently, I thank you," was the minister's reply. " The room 
is handsomely furnished, and the furniture is valuable, but I fear 
me there is a nail in the old armchair by the window ;" and he 
held forth his hand. '* I quite forgot to have it overhauled,'* 
said the hostess, " for more than one visitor has complained of 
having scratches in that chair." She examined the hand, and 
then exclaimed : " But this is in the back, and not on the palm. 
The other persons had scratches on the palm." Nothing more 
was thought of the affair until Monday morning, when the 
minister was disturbed in his sleep long before dawn by a 
gnawing sensation in his left side. He described it " as though 
a dog was gnawing my flesh." There was much pain in his side, 
and he had some difficulty in striking a light. When he got up 
and examined his side, all across his ribs he discovered marks 


similar to those upon his hand, and they had been bleeding 
freely. It took some time to stanch the blood, and then the 
minister dressed himself, and, reading the Bible, awaited the 
dawn. After breakfast he went to see his grey mare, and when 
he stroked its fine head he was surprised to find marks on the 
left side of the neck similar to those on his own hand and side. 
These he quickly bathed, and went indoors. Before leaving 
the house he mentioned these occurrences to his hostess, adding : 
" Madam, you may not know it, but I believe a vampire 
frequents this house. The dead man who owned the furniture 
comes to suck the blood from intruders, even to the grey mare in 
your stable. And probably he is not pleasantly disposed 
toward ministers of the Gospel." " It has happened to two 
ministers before,'* said the goodman of the house, *' but not to 
the ministers' nags." 

The descendant of this minister who related the story said 
that long after her great-grandfather died, other ministers who 
slept in the same room had suffered alike. " It was supposed 
that a Christian minister had effectually laid the vampire," 
said the narrator, ** but in the year 1850 a dignitary of the 
Church of England had the same unpleasant experience so far 
as his left hand and left leg were concerned. Science failed to 
account for these occurrences, and it was not until a year later 
the old vampire story was remembered. The house is still 
occupied by a farmer, but the outgoing tenant had a sale of all 
the antique furniture and effects, and nothing more was 
heard about the vampire. [A Glamorgan lady who desires 

A handsome Elizabethan chair of genuine sixteenth-century 
workmanship was bought in a sale in South Wales, in the year 
1840. The purchaser wanted to complete a set of similar 
chairs. After it had been in use for some time one of the chairs 
was set in a comer apart from the others, because people com- 
plained they were always scratching their hands until they 
bled whenever they sat in it. This could not be accounted 
for, because the chair was absolutely free from nails. In the 
course of time the set of chairs was sold for a high price to a 
rich merchant. His family, in turn, complained about scratches 
received when sitting in one of the chairs. At his death the 


offending chair was separated from the others, and given to a 
lover of antique furniture, who valued the old Elizabethan 
article because he considered it to be a " vampire chair." 
[C. D.] 

A Cardiff family possessed an old four-posted bedstead of 
the reign of James I. It was bought at a bankruptcy sale, 
and has been described as a " handsome but heavy piece of 
furniture/* The man who bought it for the proverbial " song " 
set it in his best bedroom, and was proud to exhibit it to his 
friends. After it had been in his possession for some months, it 
was found necessary to take up a portion of the flooring of 
the room usually occupied by the man and wife, and the latter, 
as her husband was away, decided to sleep in the best bedroom. 
The yoimg people had one child, an infant of four months old. 
The first night when the mother and child slept in the best 
bedroom the infant was restless. The second night the child 
cried out violently, and the mother could not pacify it for some 
time. In the morning she sent for the doctor, and he prescribed 
for the infant. That night the babe was more restful, but still 
uneasy. The fourth night the child screamed, and the mother 
immediately got up and took the infant in her arms. A few 
moments later it was dead. The mother saw at the throat of 
her babe a large mark with a red spot in the centre, through 
which blood was oozing. When the doctor came he examined 
the affected part carefully, but could not accoimt for the ex- 
traordinary mark. He said : "It is just as though some- 
thing had caught at the child's throat and sucked the blood, 
as one would suck an egg,'' Time passed, and the mother gave 
birth to another child. On this occasion the husband occupied 
the best bedroom. The first night he was awakened by feeling 
something clutching at his throat, and he believed himself to 
be a victim of nightmare. The second night he had the same 
experience, and was troubled in mind about it, but said nothing. 
The third night he was almost suflEocated. He sprang out of 
bed, and went to the looking-glass. There he saw reflected 
a large space of skin as if it had been sucked, and from the 
centre blood was oozing. He mentioned these occurrences to 
a friend, who asked to sleep in that bed. He did so, and his 
experiences were exactly like those of the babe and its father. 


A person who was acquainted with folk-lore told him it was a 
** vampire bed/* The bedstead still stands, but is never used, 
and is regarded as an " uncanny piece of furniture/' 

In many parts of Wales people believed that vampires came 
to suck corpses. An old story attached to a Carmarthenshire 
yeoman was very curious. The family had lived for genera- 
tions in the same house, situated in a lonely spot. The old 
yeoman in question was very grasping, and in his generation 
they said he would " suck blood out of a stone.'' He died, 
leaving his money and possessions to his eldest son. When 
that man died, he was duly laid out, and the death-chamber 
was shut for the night. In the morning they found marks on 
the body, which everybody said had been made by a vampire. 
The family came to the conclusion that the old yeoman had 
been sucking the corpse to see if he " could get something out 
of it." In later generations, if any marks were found upon the 
body of a dead member of the family, they said the *' Old wretch 
had been at work again/' [C. D.] 

A reputed witch died in the Vale of Neath. After her death 
the few friends she had shut up the room and sat by the fire 
all night. During their vigil they repeatedly heard a scratching 
noise in the death-chamber, but were afraid to enter it. In 
the morning they found the witch's body covered with innumer- 
able marks as if formed by suction. Then the women said 
vampires had been at work aU night, and the funeral was 
hastened, " for fear the body would be entirely devoured." 



WEIRD and grotesque are the stories connected with the 
Spectral lore of Wales. 
Far back in the past the list of spectres included 
those of the waterfall, the forest, the mountain, and the valley. 
Taliesin, the bard of the fifth century, mentions the magic 
wand of Mathonwy, which, if found in the woodlands, would 
cause the fruit and flowers to appear more beautiful on the 
mysterious banks of the spectral waters. 

Spectral stags and vast herds of spectral oxen were supposed 
to frequent the dense forests of Britain, and spectral horses 
lured huntsmen to leave the chase and go in pursuit of them. 

The Ceffyl-dwr, or water-horse of Wales, was described as a 
beautiful but small creature, who, after tempting the unwary 
traveller to moimt him, soared over river and mountain, then 
suddenly melted into thin air or mist, and threw his rider to 

About fifty years ago people living in the rural districts 
firmly believed in the water-horse. 

Near Glyn-Neath, a beautiful locality which is much fre- 
quented on account of the cascades caused by the rivers 
Perddyn, Little Neath, Mellte, and Hepste, a man, tired out 
after a long journey, lingered to rest in a shady nook. 

A water-horse slowly came up from under the foaming 
cascade, shook the spray from its snow-white mane, and 
ascended the slope upon which the tired man rested. By-and- 
by the animal neighed, then snorted, and tossed its head 
proudly in the sunlight. The weary man was tempted to mount 
the fine creature, and this he found was remarkably easy of 



accomplishment. Soon he was safely astride the noble horse. 
Saddle and bridle he had not, but the grateful man felt the 
white mane of the animal to be an excellent substitute. He 
had not long mounted before he observed that the horse was 
going at an imusual speed. Moreover, he noticed that the 
horse's hoofs did not appear to touch the ground. For a time 
the astonished rider enjoyed the rapid rate at which the horse 
conveyed him, but after a while he became slightly alarmed. u 
Wonder took the place of enjoyment, and soon terror sup- 
planted both, as, up hiU and down dale, the horse went with the 
speed of lightning. It was moonrise when he found himself 
thrown on the slope of a hUl. 

The shock of the fall was very great, and for a few moments 
he was completely dazed. Upon recovering his composure, 
he looked around for the horse which had carried him so swiftly 
and so far. To his surprise, the animal's graceful form became 
gradually indistinct. Then by slow degrees it appeared to 
merge in a vapoury cloud that hung low over the hill. By- 
and-by it vanished altogether. In the early night the man 
descended the slope, and after walking a mile or more he fotmd 
himself in the ancient village of Llanddewi Brefi, Cardiganshire. 

It was sunset when he left Glyn-Neath, and the long distance 
extending between that place and the remote village in Car- 
diganshire had been traversed in the short space of about an 
hour. [C. D,] 

Another story of the kind comes from the banks of the 

Near the town of Brecon the remains of a Roman camp are 
still to be seen. It is supposed to have been formed by Ostorius 
Scapula, on the site of the British camp " Caer Bannau," from 
which the local Roman station was called '* Bannium." This 
camp stands on the north bank of the River Honddii. 

About a century ago a weary man was lured by a small 
grey water-horse from the camp to the edge of the river. Oppor- 
timity was too inviting to be lost, so the man mounted the horse, 
and in a very short space of time was set down on the banks 
of the Towy, not far from Carmarthen. Three days later the 
man was again lured by the small grey horse, and carried back 
to the Honddu— but, as the narrator said, " in a worse state 


than when he left, for the Ceffyl-dwr had dragged him through 
mire and water, through brambles and briars, until he was 
scarcely knowable/' [A. B.] 

The water-horse of the Hondda had a " tormenting *' reputa- 

Flemingston, locally called Flimston, in the Vale of 
Glamorgan, was regarded as a favourite haunt of evil spirits 
in the form of water-horses. These creatures always appeared 
when people were benighted or lost on the desolate moorlands 
stretching for miles on each side of the River Thaw. 

Sometimes the water-horse was luminous, and then more 
peculiar and bewildering. 

In the early part of the nineteenth century an old man 
wended his way down these moors to Old Mill, near Aberthaw. 
It was a dark and cold night, late in December, and the traveller 
quickened his pace, for the clouds promised snow. When he 
had reached half-way to his destination, he was surprised to 
see, going slowly along before him, a solitary and small horse, 
ridden by a somewhat long-legged man. 

The shape of the horse, from the ears to the tail, was distinctly 
outlined by a steady glow. The rider's boots, spurs, himting- 
crop, and arms appeared tipped with light. The man was 
astonished to find that, although he used every effort to over- 
take the horse, he failed to do so. 

Within an arm's length from the door of the Old Mill the 
horse and its rider vanished mysteriously in the darkness that 
could almost be felt. When the old man entered the house he 
related his experiences. The people said he had seen the water- 
horse — ^the Ceffyl-dwr, 

Before midnight the whole valley was flooded by an unusually 
high full-moon tide, and the traveller ever afterwards attributed 
his escape to the guidance of the water-horse, who lured him 
rapidly onward through the darkness to a place of safety. 

It was said that clergymen and ministers of all denominations 
could ride the water-horse without falling until the desired 
destination was reached. 

Two stories regarding the Ceffyl-dwr come from the Vale of 

The parson and parish clerk of Bouvilston, in the Vale, were 


walking homeward from Cardiff one dark night in the eighteenth 
century. Seeing a fine horse near the old bridge that spanned 
the River Ely, the parson said : " Here is a stray : let us mount 
the animal, and get quicker home." 

" Well and good, sir,'' said his companion ; and they mounted, 
the parson in front and the clerk behind. 

In silence, but swiftly, the horse reached the foot of the 
Tumble Hill, and they were ascending agreeably, when the clerk 
said : " He is a good one to go, sir." 

With that the horse began to snort, and threatened to throw 
its riders. Again the clerk praised the horse, and then the 
animal pranced and reared dangerously. 

" Hold your tongue, will you !" said the parson authorita- 
tively, and the clerk remained silent. 

The horse rapidly ascended the Tumble Hill, and soon went 
rushing through St. Nicholas. As they approached Cottrell 
the clerk said : " Darker and darker 'tis getting, sir. I do wish 
we were safe home !" 

A moment later the clerk foimd himself in a ditch on the 
side of the road, while the horse whisked the parson in safety 
to his own door. When asked about this adventure, the clerk 
persisted the stray was the ** Ceffyl-dwr, and no other, for he 
carried the parson safe, but threw the clerk." 

The other " old story " comes from Lydmoor, below Duffryn. 
An itinerant minister, wending his way past Lydmoor Mill, 
paused to rest beside the stream. He was then joined by one 
of the deacons of TrehiU Calvinistic Methodist Chapel. Not 
far from the mill-pond at Duffryn the men saw a horse. Tired 
after a long walk, the minister suggested that he and his com- 
panion should mount, and so reach the chapel quicker. 

" You can ride the horse home again to-night," said the 
minister, *' and restore him to his owner, whoever he may be." 

" Ay, ay !" responded the deacon. " It is the miller's horse, 
an' he'd be willing enough for you to ride him." 

So the men moimted, and the horse bore them rapidly up 
*and down hill imtil they reached Tinkin's Wood, near which 
are several cromlechs. 

Then the horse went on at a jog trot, to the discomfort of 
the riders. 


" He is getting lazy and stubborn," said the deacon ; where- 
upon the horse reared fearfully. " I can never hold on !*' ex- 
claimed the deacon ; and he urged the minister to dismount, 
or allow him to do so. 

Even as he spoke the horse again reared, and threw the 
deacon into the hedge. 

The minister tried to alight and assist his friend, but the 
horse galloped away " like lightning,'* and the deacon had to 
walk to Trehill. 

There the people assembled for service said : " Serve thee 
right ! He that talks on the back of the Ceffyl-dwr is sure to 
be thrown/' 

The banks of the Towy, which flows through Carmarthen, 
were frequented by the Ceffyl-dwr. 

A story was formerly told of a man who went down the Towy 
in an ancient coracle, but was seen returning home on a 
Ceffyl-dwr, which had eyes like balls of fire, and a snort like 
a blast. [CD.] 

In Carnarvonshire and several parts of North Wales the 
water-horse was supposed to fraternize with moimtain ponies, 
and there is a tradition to the effect that the merlyns, or small 
horses known by that name, are the direct descendants of the 

It is singular to note that in Carnarvonshire, Montgomery, 
Merioneth, and Cardigan, the Ceffyl-dwr had the reputation 
of being able to transform itself into other shapes, and thus 
become a terror of the night. Sometimes it took the form of 
a goat, and rushed towards its victims with such force as to 
cause serious injury. In the Vale of Clwyd a Ceffyl-dwr 
delighted in leaping in the shape of a frog upon the backs of 
the people, clasping them with a fiendish embrace. 

A Cardiganshire butter dealer of the old school declared that 
a Ceffyl-dwr followed him from the market town, and, in the 
form of a creature between a man and a goat, crushed him so 
severely with its superhuman weight that " great black 
bruises " were to be seen " for weeks " upon his shoulders 
and arms. [0. 5.] 

Near the town of Montgomery a Ceffyl-dwr, taking a hideous, 
indescribable shape, was accustomed to leap upon pedestrians 




and horsemen, almost crushing them to death with its weight. 
A man living in the wilds of the Rhondda, in Glamorgan, was 
riding down to Pontypridd early in the nineteenth century, 
when a Ceffyl-dwr, in the form of a squirrel, leaped between 
his shoulders. The creature clasped his neck so closely as to 
make the man gasp for breath. Then he was shaken and beaten 
so badly that the next day a mysterious illness assailed him, 
from which he never recovered, but lingered on in misery for 
nearly two years. [/. if?.] 

The stories of South Wales represent the Ceffyl-dwr generally 
as a small horse which allowed people to ride him. This 
animal was a temptation to weary pedestrians and benighted 
travellers. But in the stories of North Wales the Ceffyl-dwr 
was capable of varied transformations. In the North the horse 
was generally dark, with fiery eyes and a forbidding appearance. 
In the South he was often luminous, fascinating, and sometimes 
a winged steed. 

The Ceffyl-dwr was frequently seen on the seashore, where 
he appeared with a dapple-grey coat, or was very like the sand 
in colour. The old people said he could be identified by his 
hoofs being turned the wrong way. If anybody mounted him, 
he plunged with his rider into the foam. A man once caught 
a Ceffyl-dwr on the shores of Carmarthen Bay, and afterwards 
tried to break the creature in. By means of an artfully con- 
trived bridle he led the animal home, and used it as a cart- | 
horse. But one day the bridle became unfastened, and the | 
Ceffyl-dwr darted with the cart and driver into the sea, and was I 
never afterwards seen. [C. D.] f 

In some parts of Wales a Ceffyl-dwr, in the shape of a hulking 
or clumsy chestnut or piebald horse, trotted up and down the 
shore. The animal was seen in St. Bride's Bay just after a 
storm. A farmer caught it, and put it to the plough. All went 
well for some weeks; then the Ceffyl-dwr, seized with an impulse, 
dragged both the plough and ploughman through the field at a 
furious pace, and, reaching the shore, rushed into the sea, and 
was lost in the waves. [0. 5.] 

The Ceffyl-dwr, in the form of a huge and clumsy horse, was 
seen plunging up and down in the sea when thunderstorms were 
brewing, or before great gales. Sometimes its colour was grey 



or dappled white and brown, while in very stormy seasons it 
would be snowy white, like the foam, or leaden-hued, harmoniz- 
ing with the dark clouds and steel-coloured under-waves. 

The Gwrach-y-rhibyn resembled the Irish banshee. Welsh- 
men say this night-hag never troubles new families, only those 
whose ancestors have for long generations lived in the same 
place ; in other words, the " old stock."* This spectral form is 
described as having long black hair, black eyes, and a swarthy 
countenance. Sometimes one of her eyes is grey and the other 
black. Both are deeply sunken and piercing. Her back was 
crooked, her figure was very thin and spare, and her pigeon- 
breasted bust was concealed by a sombre scarf. Her trailing 
robes were black. She was sometimes seen with long flapping 
wings that fell heavily at her sides, and occasionally she went 
flying low down along watercourses, or around hoary man- 
sions. Frequently the flapping of her leathern bat-like wings 
could be heard against the window-panes. 

St. Donat's Castle, on the seashore of Glamorgan, has always 
been inhabited since the coming of the Normans into Wales, 
even though occasionally it was not in the owner's occupation. 
The Stradlings were holders of it from Norman times until the 
middle of the eighteenth century, when it was the subject of a 
romantic law-suit, which lasted over fifty years. The heir of 
the Stradling family went on a tour with his friend Tyrwhitt, 
and before starting it was agreed by the two young men that if 
during their travels anything should befaJl the other, the 
survivor was to inherit the deceased's estates. Both were 
rich, and their estates valuable. In the meantime the father 
of Thomas Stradling died, and the absent heir came into pos- 
session of the St. Donat's estate. In 1738 Thomas Stradling 
was killed in a duel at MontpeUier, in France, and Tyrwhitt, of 
Wiltshire, according to agreement, became the owner of 
St. Donat's. The Stradling family believed the rightful heir 
had been the victim of foul play, and laid claim to the pos- 
sessions. During the long years of litigation the Tyrwhitts 
let the castle in succession to highly respectable people, from 
the descendants of whom many stories of the place have been 

♦ " Vale of Glamorgan/' p. 331. 



In the lore connected With the castle the Gwrach-y-rhibyn 
appears. One night early in the nineteenth century a stranger 
who was visiting the family resident in the castle, distinctly 
heard a moaning and wailing sound close under his window. 
It was like " the pitiful sound of a woman in the greatest 
•possible agony." The visitor ventured to look out, but was 
alarmed by the flapping of wings against the lattice, and a 
rattling noise like that of talons. In the morning he told his 
host and hostess of his experiences, and they said it was the 
Gwrach-y-rhibyn, who always frequented the castle, and 
lamented the death of the last of the Stradlings in the direct 
line. They said that sometimes this mysterious figure wan- 
dered through the empty and silent rooms of the disused part 
of the castle, and the sounds of her lamentation were " enough 
to turn one's blood to ice.'* Once the Gwrach-y-rhibyn tra- 
versed the village from end to end, and in the dim uncertain 
twilight of a November evening her flowing robes and out- 
stretched arms were " against the wind,*' and caused a 
" roaring noise." She was once seen beating the boundaries of 
the whole estate, and was accompanied by black hounds with 
red eyes and horrible fangs. 

Near a small creek that runs into the land from Oxwich Bay 
stand the ruins of Pennard Castle, which was built on the site 
of a stronghold of Danish rovers. The castle was the property 
of a Norman lord, and the old story goes that it was built in a 
single night by a Welsh sorcerer, who in this way saved his life 
from threatened imprisonment and assassination by the 
Noraaans. Around this castle the Gwrach-y-rhibyn often 
wandered, and was seen and heard by people so late as the first 
half of the nineteenth century. People along the country-side 
used formerly to say that if anybody slept for the night among 
the ruins of Pennard Castle he would be bewitched. It was 
solemnly stated that centuries ago a man once slept in the ruins 
after being told not to do so. During the night, the Gwrach-y- 
rhibyn attacked him violently, and almost " left him for dead." 
He was found in the morning quite unconscious, with bruises on 
his body, scratches upon his face, and other evidences of maltreat- 
ment. When he " came to himself " he described the terrible 
appearance of the hag who attacked him, and said she " clawed " 


him just as an eagle might have done. Then she " pecked *' 
at his body and beat him. The man went home to Carmarthen, 
and ever afterwards was bewitched, as the people near Pennard 
Castle Said he would be " for all time." [A, B. and 0, S.] 

Beaupr^ Castle, on the banks of the River Thaw, near Cow- 
bridge, Glamorgan, became uninhabitable in the eighteenth 
century, when a residence known as New Beaupr6 was erected. 
It originally belonged to the Welsh Seisyllt family, from whom 
the present Lord Sahsbury is said to be descended, the family 
name Cecil being a corruption of Seisyllt. Beaupr6 was 
restored by the Normans, and descended by heirship to the 
Bassett family, who came into possession about the year 1200. 
Later on it was sold to the Edmunds family, and subsequently 
to the Trehames of St. Hilary, from whom it was bought by a 
soUcitor. During the Edmunds ownership, and while the 
Treharnes possessed the castle, the Gwrach-y-rhibyn frequented 
the place. There was an old story prevalent that the hag had 
been seen rising up out of the River Thaw, and wringing her 
hands and flapping her bat-Hke wings in the twilight. She also 
seemed to have a grievance against New Beaupre, for late in the 
eighteenth century she was seen and heard in the grounds. 
Early in the nineteenth century workmen staying in the neigh- 
bourhood declared they had seen the Gwrach-y-rhibyn among 
the ruins of the old castle, and the wailing and sobbing were 
painful to hear. Soon all the neighbourhood rang with the 
story, and as time passed the hag became more persistent. 
When the soUcitor bought the estate he heard the story of the 
Gwrach-y-rhibyn, and was much interested in it. A year or 
two before this owner's death the following story was told by an 
old man in the Vale of Glamorgan : Above the entrance door- 
way of the castle a panel bears the Bassett arms and motto, 
Gwell angau na chwilydd (" Rather death than shame "). 
The old man was doing some work near this door, and it was 
twiUght. While busily engaged, he heard a low, sad wailing 
sound wandering around the courtyard, and immediately 
opposite, in the grand porch of the castle, he saw a shadowy 
i&gure standing wringing its hands and flitting in and out like 
somebody in distress. The spectator crossed the courtyard 
and approached the porch, and as he did so the figure vanished. 



Curiosity prompted him to venture farther in, and as he went 
a voice seemed to whisper in his ears, " Lost ! lost ! lost !'* He 
looked around, but could not see anybody. Quietly he re- 
entered the porch, and the wailing, moaning, and sobbing began 
again. Then the figure with the waving hands reappeared, and 
the old man distinctly heard a sweet but sad voice, in wailing 
accents, crying : " Restore ! restore ! restore !" The old man 
went home, and the next day told the solicitor who owned the 
castle the story of the Gwrach-y-rhibyn. " I know all about 
it,*' said the gentleman, who was one of the kindest-hearted in 
Glamorgan. " Strange voices often come from the past, and 
act as monitors for the future. I know all about it.'' The 
old man understood that the owner also had seen and heard 
the Gwrach-y-rhibyn in her wanderings and wailings and 
whisperings around picturesque old Beaupre. Whether this 
story was true or not, it is certain that the then owner, Mr. Daniel 
Jones, left the Beaupr6 estate by will to Captain Bassett, a 
direct descendant of the original owners, in whose family it still 
remains. The grand old porch (designed by Inigo Jones, and 
built by Gwylim Twrch) of Beaupre is one of the " show 
places " of the Vale of Glamorgan. It is said that at the castle 
of Beaupr^ arrangements and terms were made to compel King 
John to sign the Magna Charta. Sir Philip Bassett of that period 
was afterwards Lord Chief Justice of England. [Family Collection.] 
The Caerphilly swamp, through which the stream Nant-y- 
Gledyr flows, was frequented by the Gwrach-y-rhibyn. This 
swamp, when the river was dammed up, formed a lake, and 
was used for the defence of the fortress-castle of Caerphilly, 
where the powerful De Clares dwelt. In the last half of the 
eighteenth century the hag was seen by many living in the 
district. An old man, who remembered his father's version of 
the story, said that in tainy seasons the stream overflowed the 
marshy ground, and from the midst of the lake formed thereby, 
the Gwrach-y-rhibyn arose, and dipped herself up and down in 
the water. From her bat-Uke wings, her long black hair, and 
talon-like fingers the water dropped sparkUng in the moonUght. 
Each time she arose from the water she would wring her hands 
and moan, or utter a long-drawn wail, or a groan which was 
terrible to hear. Then, suddenly flapping her wings, she would 


fly to the castle and take refuge within its walls. Boys and 
men were known to watch the hag, and used every endeavour 
to catch her, but without success. The old man said his father 
had seen her several times, and was afraid of the rainy weather 
and the gloomy swamp. Sometimes the hag wandered up and 
down beside the stream in dry weather. His father had seen her. 
It was " as true as the Bible — iss, indeed !'* he said. [C. D,] 
Stories about the Brenin Llwyd, the Grey King, or Monarch 
of the Mist, were told in most of the mountainous districts. 
In the North he was described as being very mighty and 
powerful. He was represented as sitting among the moun- 
tains, robed in grey clouds and mist, and woe to anybody 
who was caught in his clutches ! Snowdon and the ranges of 
it, Cader Idris, Plinlimmon, and other lofty places, were his 
favourite haunts. In the South he was regarded as " hunger- 
ing '' for victims, and children were warned not to venture too 
high up the mountains, lest the Brenin Llwyd should seize 
them. So late as the first half of the nineteenth century, 
whenever an adult or a child was lost oh GeUionen, near 
AUtwen, or on the Garth Maelog, Glamorgan, people said the 
Brenin Llwyd had seized its prey. An old woman said that 
when she was a child, and visited relatives at Llantrisant, 
Glamorgan, the children believed the Brenin Llwyd lived among 
the local mountains. She said that many a time she shuddered 
when they ascended to the mineral weUs on the Smaelog, and 
was glad to come down, because the people and children warned 
everybody not to linger late, for the Brenin Llwyd would be 
after them. She was further told that there was no trusting 
him, for sometimes on the brightest summer evening he would 
come suddenly and draw them into his clutches. [0. S.] 

A resident in the North said that formerly the old guides 
among the Snowdon ranges were fond of telling stories about the 
Brenin Llwyd, who came stealthily and silently up through the 
ravines, or sat waiting among lonely peaks to imprison the 
unwary. In the childhood of those old men few cared to make 
long ascents, and even the guides were nervous occasionally, 
when the old people talked in the fireside comers about the ever- 
silent and gloomy but treacherous Brenin Llwyd, whose move- 
ments were never heard when he came to take his prisoners. 



ANIMALS and birds have prominent places in Welsh lore. 
Many of the Kings, Princes, and chieftains of Wales 
have names derived from those animals which were 
considered brave. 

Arth — the Welsh for bear — with ur added to it, was the 
name of Arthur, the King, hero, and warrior. Llewellyn is 
derived from Llew, the lion, and Bleddyn from the wolf. 
Cadno, the name of a Welsh Prince, is derived from the fox. 

In the ancient mythology of Wales, Hu Gadarn, known as 
Hu the Mighty,* is described as drawing the Afanc, or beaver, 
out of the lake with the aid of his wonderful Ychain Banawg, 
or oxen. 

In the British triads it is stated that when the Lake of 
Llion overflowed and submerged the whole of Britain, the 
people were all drowned excepting Dwyfan and Dwyfach, who 
escaped in a naked or sailless boat. These two personages 
afterwards repeopled the island. The boat or ship was called 
the Nefydd, naf neifion, and had on board a male and female 
of every creature. The deluge has never broken out since, 
because Hu Gadarn undertook the difficult task of dragging 
the Afanc, or beaver, out of the Lake of Llion with the aid of 
his oxen, known as Ychain Banawg. It is said that one of 
them, in drawing forth the Afanc, overstrained himself, and 
his eyes fell out of their sockets. He dropped down dead the 
moment his task was over. The other, in grief of mind at 
the loss of its companion, refused food, and wandered about 
until it died of a broken heart at Llanddewi Brefi, or St. David's 

♦ Da vies, ** Mythology,'* p. 267. 


the Lowing, in Cardiganshire, which derived its name from 
the miserable moaning of the sacred ox. In former times the 
villagers of that parish exhibited as a relic a large horn, which 
they said belonged to one of the oxen of Hu the Mighty.* 

In Druidical times — and, it is stated, many centuries after- 
wards^ — the Welsh were accustomed to have a festival in com- 
memoration of the Deluge. It took place on the morning after 
the Eve of May. Sacred oxen, and in later ages the best oxen 
to be found in the country, were stationed near the lake, in 
the midst of which was a holy island, where a shrine or ark 
was kept. These oxen, by means of a chain attached to the 
shrine, drew it through the shallow water to dry ground. 
Meanwhile, the finest singers in the district sung a chant known 
as " Cainc yr Ychain Banawg." The melody closely resembled 
the lowing of kine and the rattling of chains. The first person 
in the great procession was the Arch-Druid, or the chief bard, 
bearing his magical wand. Then came about two hundred 
Druids and bards, with various kinds of harps, and after them 
came the ark or shrine of Ceridwen, or Cariadwen, which had 
been removed from the chains of the oxen to the shoulders of 
minor priests. Before the ark went the hierophant, who re- 
presented the Supreme Creator, a torch-bearer who repre- 
sented the sun, and the herald-bard, who was regarded as the 
special official of the goddess and symbol of the moon. Then 
the general public made way for a large body of singers and 
dancers, who, with wreaths of ivy on their heads, or comute 
caps, surrounded the Afanc, or car of the diluvian god. Some 
of these kept blowing horns ; others carried double pateras, 
and many clashed their shields with crooked swords. Ulti- 
mately the procession entered the Druidical temple in the 
centre of the grove of oaks. The rampart of earth surroimding 
the temple was crowded by the heads of tribes, with their 
standard-bearers, and people of importance, while the general 
population of the district stood beyond. In these ceremonies | 
two or more black beavers were exhibited. f -^ 

Welsh mythology describes the Afanc, or beaver, as a crea- 
ture of monstrous size, which, when taken and fastened with 

* Davies, ** Mythology," p. 140. 

t Meyrick. ** Costumes/' p. 34. ^ 


huge iron chains, was so heavy that he could only be dragged 
out of the great lake by twin oxen of great strength. 

In support of the tradition about the beaver, the local name 
Nant yr Afancon, or the Valley of the Beavers, in Carnarvon- 
shire, still exists. 

Some Welsh authorities discard the beaver theory for that 
of the alligator, or a huge kind of otter. 

Under the name of Llostlydan, or " broad tail,'' the beaver 
is particularly specified in the laws of Hywel the Good. The 
skin of the beaver was then valued at one hundred and twenty 
pence ; while that of the Dyfrgi, or water-dog, known to us as 
the otter, was considered only worth eightpence. 

The beaver is described as being generally about three to five 
feet in length, with hind-parts like the seal. The skin was thick, 
and the hair, which was very plentiful, was exceedingly black 
and glossy. Beneath the hair was a soft down. The legs were 
short and thick, and the toes, joined with a web, were covered 
with hair. 

In the time of Giraldus Cambrensis the River Teivi was 
inhabited by beavers. These animals are now unknown in 

The sacred animals of the Druids were milk-white oxen, 
and the spotted cow procured blessings. In many of the old 
festivals of Wales milk-white oxen were led in the processions, 
and those with pink ears were much valued. They were decked 
with garlands and fiowers. If these oxen had curly hair on 
any part of the body, they brought luck to their owners. 
Cattle and cows of pure white were formerly much sought 
after by Welsh farmers, because they brought luck to the 

Black cattle and cows, especially those of the Castlemartin 
breed, were much valued ; and although they have a certain 
ferocity, the people in South Wales still regard them as luck- 

Oxen were credited with the power to dig up wild winds, 
or hurricanes ; and even now, when these animals gambol or 
are frisky, people say, " A storm is coming." A bull-calf, it 
is said, was specially reared to fight any dragon that might 
enter the district. The black cow was regarded as an omen 


of care and sorrow when met in the morning. The hoof-prints 
of the same animal seen near any dwelling were unlucky to the 

An old Cardiganshire butter-dealer said that the birth of 
twin calves on a farm foretokened prosperity, and if the 
animals were parti-coloured, all the better. 

When cattle and cows lie down quietly in the meadows, 
people say a very warm summer may be expected. If the 
animals are very restless and uneasy in May, the weather 
during the ensuing summer will be variable. If they are wild 
and frisky, windy weather and rain will prevail for the next 
three months. The deep lowing of kine indicates a prosperous 

Sheep and lambs are slightly connected with Welsh folk-lore, 
but they are more generally associated with charms and divina- 
tion, or disease. 

When sheep congregate in comers of the fields storms may 
be expected. If they keep close to the cattle rain is coming. 
When they are scattered abroad or wander about people say 
great heat may be anticipated. If the sheep go quickly to the 
shearing-place a very warm summer is indicated. A single 
black sheep in a flock is regarded as an imlucky omen, while 
three of them mean " plenty." 

If the first lamb of the season faces the farmer, he will have 
good luck for the remainder of the year. If the farmer turns 
money in his pocket when he sees the first lamb of the season, 
he will have much prosperity. 

The boar is prominent in Welsh lore, and, according to a very 
ancient tradition, men learnt from him the way to plough. 

In the Mabinogi of Kilhwch* and Olwen, Arthur the King 
is described as chasing the " Boar Trwyth " with his " seven 
young pigs " from Ireland through South Wales, and on into 
Cornwall, where the animal was " driven straight into the deep 
sea. And henceforth it was never known where he went." 

Arthur told his warriors that the Boar Trwyth was " once a 
King," but '* God had transformed him into a swine for his 

The same Mabinogi also contains details of the " son of 
♦ " The Mabinogion/* p. 253. 


Dadweir." Its name was Henwen. At Maes Gwenith (Wheat- 
field in Gwent) the sow left three grains of wheat and three bees, 
since when the best wheat and honey have been found in 
Gwent. In Dyfed she left a grain of barley and a little pig, and 
at Lleyn, in Arfon, she left a grain of rye. In another part of 
Wales Henwen left a wolf-cub and an eagle. At Maen Du, in 
Arfon, she left a kitten, which was thrown by Coll ab Collfrewj 
into the Menai Straits. The sons of Palug in Anglesea found 
and reared this kitten, which came to be known as the Palug 
Cat, one of the " three plagues of the Isle of Mona." 

Some of the coins mentioned by Camden had the figure of a 
sow carrying on her back a basket of fruit and flowers. The 
bards and mythological triads represent Ceridwen or Cariad- 
wen, the British Ceres, assuming the character of a sow. In 
her pontifical capacity she is described as a " twrch,'* or boar. 
Her priesthood was called '* meichiaid,*' or swine-herds. Her 
disciples were known as " moch,'' or swine, and her novitiates 
were described as " perchyll,*' or yoimg pigs. 

In an old nursery tale rescued from the past a black pig was 
bom to a sorceress, and in punishment for her wickedness the 
animal grew so big that his bristles stood up above the trees 
in the forests of North Wales. The creature rooted up 
the earth so deep that the sea ran in and made lakes all 
through the land. He went on through the north and 
south of the country, and ate up naughty little children 
who told fibs. He destroyed many villages that were noted 
for their sins and wickedness, and finally rushed into the 
sea. This probably owed its origin to the suppression of the 
Welsh by the English, and inroads made by the sea on the 
northern coasts. [0. 5.] 

A black hog rooting near a house and frequenting the premises 
foretold disaster to the inmates. To meet a black pig upon first 
going out in the morning was unlucky. It was deemed un- 
fortunate to be followed by a black pig. 

The bear was regarded as the king of all animals. Arthur is 
described as the mighty bear, and as a god and hero. 

Among the rural population about eighty years ago it was 
customary to call the Great Bear Arthur's Plough. People 
said that in the dead of the night, if anybody cared to listen, the 


plough and waggon of the Great and Lesser Bear could be 
heard turning. The little, almost invisible star just above the 
middle one in the tail of the plough was called the " plough- 
man/' or " driver.*' 

The morris dancers never went forth in former times without 
a man wrapped in a bear-skin. 

With reference to the bear, there is a saying which runs thus : 
*' Gwmerth Ergydly a laddes yr arth mwyaf a welwyd erioed 
a saethwellten," or " The keen-eyed Gwrnerth killed the 
largest bear ever seen, with a wheat-straw." 

Here it may be mentioned that wheat-straw was sacred to 
the goddess Ceridwen. It was used in making contracts and 
casting lots. Even in the present day the peasantry of Wales 
cast lots in the following way : If six persons are to be drawn in 
the lot, six pieces of a wheat-straw are cut into different lengths, 
and then put together, the tops being aU even, and the ends 
concealed. Each person draws one of these pieces. He who 
happens to draw the shortest piece has to do or not to do the 
action thus to be determined by lot. 

A wheat-straw was used for ratifying a bargain, contract, or 
engagement. Two pieces of equal length were held by each of 
the two contracting parties as proof of the contract. To cut 
one of the pieces of wheat-straw appears to have meant the 
breaking of the contract. 

The ancient Welsh poet Sion Rhys Morus says to a love- 
messenger : " If she converse no more, break the straw with my 
fair one " — that is, *' break my engagement with her." 

Associated with the bear was the wolf. In the morris dances, 
the Mabsant, and all revels, the wolf was represented. 

There was formerly a saying in Wales that the devil made 
the wolf and the goat. 

If the name of a wolf was uttered between Christmas Eve and 
Twelfth Night, the farmers believed adversity would soon visit 
their homesteads. 

In the eighteenth century very aged people in many parts of 
Wales would talk seriously about the wolf-men, or persons said 
to be descended from wolves, who dwelt in the forests and wood- 
lands, and at night emerged to prowl about farm-yards and 
villages for the purpose of stealing poultry and pigs. These 


men were notorious robbers, and sometimes carried infants and 
young children away, in the hope of ransom. They went more 
like animals than men, in packs, and thought nothing of making 
raids on lonely farm-houses and hamlets in the outskirts of 
the forests and woodlands where they dwelt. In appearance 
it is said they closely resembled wolves, and during their raids 
they had a curious wolf -howl, which scared people, who would 
willingly assist the victims of these robbers. In a nursery rhyme, 
now believed to be obsolete, children were warned not to wander 
into the woods, because of the wolf-men, who would eat them. 

The fox was regarded as the devil's spy, and any place much 
frequented by foxes, or neighbourhoods where these animals 
had their dens, were " in the power of Satan." 

In the old folk-stories they were described as being capable 
of conversation at certain seasons of the year, especially late at 
night. Like a fragment of the past wafted to the present comes 
an old story once prevalent in Glamorgan. A drover going 
down to the Vale of Glamorgan for cattle was benighted in the 
woods of Porthkerry, and sought shelter and a resting-place in 
a comfortable nook. In the night he heard somebody talking, 
and, sitting up, he saw beside him a fox, who looked old and 
grey in the bright moonlight. The animal appeared to be in 
trouble, and when the drover asked the cause, the fox said he 
was burdened with sorrow that had descended to him through 
many long generations. Thereupon the drover blamed him for 
taking to heart anything that happened to his forefathers. 
The fox said it was the sin of remorse for misdeeds done by one 
of his far-back ancestors. At this the drover laughed. Then 
the fox was angry, and the drover, to pacify the animal, asked 
what the sin and remorse meant. The fox answered that he 
was directly descended from Einion ap CoUwyn, who betrayed 
the Welsh to Robert Fitzhamon, and thus helped the Normans 
to become possessed of Glamorgan. The animal told the drover 
that the soul of Einion had passed into the body of a fox, and 
from him he had directly descended. When the drover reached 
his destination he related his experiences, and the villagers said 
they were glad the traitor was punished, for Einion was a " sly 
old fox, who was paid for his treachery on the Golden Mile.'* 
[A. B. and Family Collection. Told in local Mabsants,] 


A similar story is told with reference to Coroticus, with 
whom St. Patrick remonstrated between a.d. 480 and 490. This 
Coroticus is said to have been Ceredig, the son of Cimedda, who 
conquered and drove the Irish away from Wales early in the 
fifth century. For this deed St. Patrick cursed him. Soon 
after Coroticus was cursed he led a wandering life. Ultimately 
he was turned into a fox, and in this form he ran away into the 
forests, and was never seen again. This story appears in the 
legends connected with St. Patrick. 

To see several foxes together was regarded as unlucky, but to 
see one alone in the morning was good. A grey or white fox 
seen anywhere or at any time in South Wales was an omen of a 
death in a family. 

Early in the nineteenth century a farmer living near Brecon 
said that whenever a white fox was seen in the vicinity of a very 
large farm, a stroke of good luck might be expected. During 
the next year all imdertakings would be successful, and the 
harvest would be unusually abundant. 

The appearance of a white fox on the farms in Mid- Wales 
indicated a fortunate marriage. If seen just before a birth, the 
child would be fortimate in all its imdertakings. 

It was regarded as a very bad omen if a litter of any kind of 
foxes entered the courtyard. Disaster, death, or trouble always 
followed their appearance. 

When foxes barked and howled or made uncanny noises in 
or near the village of St. Donat's, Glamorgan, people said that 
the head of the family living in the castle would die. 

Black or very dark foxes seen in Gower indicated death, 
misfortune, or disaster to farmers on whose lands they appeared. 

The hare took a prominent place in connection with Druidical 
mysteries. It was used by the Druids in their auguries, and 
generally to indicate the fate of war or the veracity of a person. 
From the various movements of the animal success or misfor- 
tune was predicted. 

In later times the hare entered largely into folk-lore, and its 
comings and goings were watched with considerable curiosity, 
and sometimes anxiety. The peasantry, as well as the lords 
of the soil, in Wales regarded the hare as a herald of death. 
A white hare and a white weasel crossing any person's path 


foretold death, disaster, or misfortune. If these creatures 
ran before a man, he would be able to conquer his enemies and 
avert calamity. When they ran to the right from a man, he 
might expect danger, and perhaps an accident. When they 
ran to the left from a man, he had enemies in his household. 
If they went in a zigzag way before a man, he would have much 
success ; but if they turned and ran backwards along the path 
it was an omen of sudden death. 

In the neighbourhood of Carreg Cennin, Carmarthenshire, 
a white hare was regarded as a bringer of good luck to the 
farms. After its appearance the harvest was exceptionally 

The white hare, white weasel, and white mole were formerly 
regarded in Glamorgan and Cardiganshire as heralds of mis- 
fortune or. disgrace to the families near whose premises they 
were to be seen. 

In the old mythology and stories of Wales the horse held a 
worthy place. 

Milk-white steeds were ridden by Kings, Princes, and chief- 

It was considered very fortunate to meet a white horse, 
especially in the morning. To meet a white horse without 
spitting before it was unlucky. 

If anybody, hearing horses neighing, listens attentively, he 
will know they announce good luck. 

If a person in the first stages of consumption walked up and 
down the stables early in the morning, while the horses yet 
slept, he would be cured. The process was to be continued 
iQX not less than six months. 

' When the Bdltan fires were lighted a horse's head was thrown 
therein to keep witches away, and to prevent any disease spread- 
ing among the flocks and herds. In some parts of Wales, so late 
as the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the old belief 
was current that every churchyard which had been laid out 
in the far past contained the bones of a horse. People said 
Ithe horse was buried alive. 

During the eighteenth century horses' heads were nailed 
above bam-doors to keep witches away. The uncanny 
musicians of the witches' revels played unholy tunes on horses' 


heads, and drank to the health of each other in goblets made of 
horses' hoofs. [Family Collection.] 

Horses were supposed to see ghosts' apparitions of all kinds 
quicker than men could. In all the old stories of phantom 
funerals, and apparitions connected with riders and drivers, 
the horse sees first, and halts before the obstacle, which then 
appears to the person holding the reins. 

A country doctor of the old school, and one of the fourth 
generation of surgeons in the same family, who lived on the 
borders of Monmouthshire, said that so long as a white horse 
was kept in the stables good luck predominated. If a white 
horse died, sorrow, misfortune, or death always happened in 
the family. 

The dog was an animal of importance in the mythology and 
folk-lore of Wales. Ceridwen, the moon goddess, had for 
one of her symbols a " milast," or greyhound bitch. When 
initiating Gwion the Little into her mysteries, Ceridwen trans- 
formed herself into a " milast." 

The canine symbol of Ceridwen was well known in Wales, 
and is perpetuated in many places to this day. Gw41 y Filast, 
" the lair of the greyhound bitch," in the parish of Llanbendy, 
Carmarthenshire, consists of a large stone supported by four 
pillars. There is another Gw&l y Filast in Glamorgan, and in 
Cardiganshire a similar stone is called Llech yr Ast, " the flat 
stone of the bitch." In the parish of Llanhamlwch, Brecon- 
shire, there is a place called Maen yr Ast, " the bitch stone," 
abbreviated into Mannest. On the south side of the Roman 
road between Bassalleg and St. Mellon's, Monmouthshire, there 
is a farm-house called Gwael-y-filast, which has some reference 
to a greyhound bitch. A maenhir, or tall stone, stands 
near this farm. A sketch of this stone by Viscount Tredegar 
appears in the Revi W. Bagnall-Oakeley's " Rude Stone Monu- 
ments." In Merionethshire there is Ffynon Maen Milgi, 
" the greyhound's stone well." 

Camu ar Camulus, the name under which Mars was known 
to the ancient British, had the dog, the greyhound bitch, 
and the horse dedicated to him. These animals were offered 
on his altar. The dog-grass, a weed, was also sacred to 


The figure of a woman on or with a mare represents the 
latter as another symbol of Ceridwen. 

In the folk-lore of Wales the dog, like the horse, is credited 
with being able to see spirits before they are apparent to a 
man. A dog will bark or howl in the night at spirits that may 
be passing. It always knows a haunted castle, house, or 
locality, and makes known the fact by its incessant howling or 
barking, and reluctance to pass the place. A dog with spots 
over its eyes is supposed to be able to see the devil ! People 
said that dogs would go mad if they were given a bone of lamb 
at Eastertide. 

A family living near St. Nicholas, in the Vale of Glamorgan, 
would not be without a black-and-white sheep-dog " forworlds." 
When asked the reason why, they said that whenever the farm 
was without one, trouble and misfortune attended the tenant, 
whoever he might be. 

A greyhound with a white spot on its forehead was supposed 
to be a luck-bringer to people in Gower. 

If a black dog strayed into a farmstead people were glad, 
because it betokened good luck. 

Cats were supposed to be endowed with magical powers, 
and therefore granted many privileges and indulgences. It 
was not considered lucky for the inmates of a house to be 
without a cat. 

Girls are told to feed their cats well, so that the sun may shine 
on their wedding-day. Black cats keep care and trouble 
away from the house. It is lucky for a black and strange cat 
to stray into anybody's house. If a black cat is lost, trouble 
and sorrow will fall upon the house. It is very fortunate to 
have a purely white and a thoroughly black cat on the 
premises. When the cat has a cold, the sickness will seize all 
in the house. Cat's blood cures the shingles ! 

When cats trim their whiskers, guests may be expected. 
If cats suck the breath of babes, the latter will die. When cats 
are frisky, wind and rain may be expected. If the cat sits with 
its back to the fire, snow is coming. When a cat stretches 
its paws towards the fire, strangers are approaching the 

The goat has long been associated with Wales, but it is not 


clear why, for the reason that nearly all references to it appear 
to have been dated since the Norman Conquest. 

In an old nursery rhyme a story is told of a goat tethered 
with a wooden collar at the foot of Snowdon. Two others 
were sent to Bardsey Island. The latter fought with each 
other so furiously that the vibration of their conflict caused 
the church tower of Abermaw to faU, and it was never rebuilt. 

The devil had the credit of creating the goat. 

Witches were supposed to take their nocturnal rides on a 
he-goat, a wolf, or a cat. 

In some parts of Wales black goats were regarded cLS keepers 
of treasure. Their presence among solitary bridle-paths in- 
dicated hidden money or some kind of goods. 

Many of the old Welsh stories describe the devil's goat-feet 
appearing, and with claws like a wild goat. 

An old Welsh saying is that " Goats are on good terms 
with the fairies." 

Stags appear occasionally in Welsh lore. 

The stag that took refuge with lUtyd, the knight and saint, 
when the hounds of King Merchion hunted it, is mentioned in 
the " Vita Sancte Iltuti." 

There is a tradition connected with the ancient town of 
Llantwit Major, where Illtyd founded his fifth-century college 
or University, that a golden stag with its head buried to the 
west is concealed in the immediate neighbourhood. When 
found, the former importance of the town will be restored, and 
prosperity will quickly follow 

The eagle is described in Welsh lore as the king of birds. 

Sacred eagles screamed and prophesied down from their 
crag-built nests on the summits of all the great mountains in 
Wales. In poetical language Snowdon was called Caer Eryri, 
the stronghold of the eagle. 

Many superstitions were attached to the eagle, but they are 
remote and almost lost to oral tradition. A few have survived, 
and among the most curious of these is the old story that the 
descendants of a person who had eaten eagles' flesh to the ninth 
generation possessed the gift of second sight. They had the 
power to charm various complaints away, and especially 
shingles. [A. B, CD.] 



'To destroy an eagle's brood was a token of revenge to follow 
the slayer. An eagle's egg, boiled and eaten by two persons, 
would keep witches away. 

The eagles of Snowdon were regarded as oracles. When 
they soared aloft and circled, triumph was near ; when they 
descended nearer the earth, disaster was at hand. If they 
stood sentinel-like on the grim crags, enemies were in the near 
distance. When they brooded, or nestled together, or con- 
gregated in numbers in various places, or appeared indiiferent, 
peace would come for a season. 

The man who was daring enough to rob an eagle's nest of 
its eggs could expect to be bereft of repose ever afterwards. 
The eagles of Snowdon and Cader Idris could never be caught. 
Their cries meant calamity, and when they hovered over the 
plains, it was a sign that disease and death would soon stalk 

Eagles are prominent in aU the legends connected with King 
Arthur, and several caverns in Wales are pointed out where 
chained eagles once were supposed to guard the resting-place 
of the monarch, who, in the golden age, would return and 
rule triumphantly over Britain and all the isles of the sea. 

In the North they used to say the " whirling " wind, or 
whirlwind, was caused by the great eagles of Snowdon when 
they prepared for flight.* A folk-story describes a great meeting 
of eagles on the summit of Snowdon. To this assembly the 
eagles, vultures, and other birds of prey were bidden, from 
Plinlimmon, Cader Idris, and other mountains of the North. 
When busy in debate, they all shouted, and at the conclusion 
the birds sprang upwards and flapped their wings mightily, 
so that a great whirlwind passed over Wales, destroying all 
as it went. In some parts of the Principality they formerly 
said, when exceptionally high winds prevailed : *' The eagles 
are breeding whirlwinds on Snowdon !" 

The owl is prominent in the mythology and folk-lore of 

Dafydd ap Gwylimf gives an excellent rendering in verse 

* " Welsh Sketches," 1850, p. 20. 

t Dafydd ap Gwylim was the celebrated idyllic poet of Wales in the 
fourteenth century, and contemporary with Chaucer. He has been 
hkened to Petrarch, and was the writer of many beautiful verses, a 


of the ancient tradition with reference to the owl. The transla- 
tion runs thus : 



" Bird of wondrous sorrows, thou 
With thy countenance of age, 
Wilt thou to the bard avow 
What thy name and lineage ?*' 


** By the men of noble race 
I am called ' Unrivalled Face.' 
At the banquetings of yore, 
I the name * Flower Aspect ' bore. 
I was daughter of a chief. 
Proudly through the land of Mon 
As the son of Merchion known. 
Rich in golden stores " 


'* O Grief ! 
Maiden who art called ' The Mom,' 
Who, then, wrought this fearful change ?" 


** Gwydion, son of Don, in scorn, 
Witii his wand of magic sway. 
Changed my beauty's proud array 
For the aspect you behold ! 
In revenge, because of old 
Gronwy, Pevyr, Garanhir, 
Of tall form and noble cheer, 
Penll5m's lord to me was dear I" 

From time immemorial the owl has been regarded in Wales 
with ill-favour. Innumerable stories are told against this 
bird. Woe, sorrow, death, and tribulation attend its flight, 
and its hootings are listened to with dread in many parts 
of the country. 

In several villages in North and South Wales, when an owl 
hoots in the midst of houses, a maiden inhabitant wiU lose her 

collection of which was published in 1789 bjr Dr. Owen Pughe, and in 
1834 by Mr. Arthur J . Johnes. The latest articles on Dafydd ap Gwylim 
are to be found in ** Y Cymmrodor " and the Transactions of the 
Honourable Society of London Cymmrodorion. 
* Translated by Mr. Arthur J. Johnes, 1854. 



" When an owl was heard hooting early in the night from 
one of the yews in the churchyard, it was looked upon as a 
sign that some unmarried girl of the village of Llangynwyd had 
forsaken the path of chastity. There are even now persons 
who maintain the trustworthiness of this sign."* Llangynwyd 
is a village near Maesteg, near Bridgend, plamorgan. 

In South Glamorgan, if an owl hoots in the early part of the 
winter close to any small town or village it is regarded as a 
sign of snow. 

The flight of an owl across a person'si path was considered 
very baleful. 

The raven in Welsh lore is closely connected with King 
Arthur, whose soul was supposed to hover in the form of 
that bird over his favourite haunts. For this reason in Wales, 
as well as in Cornwall, it is considered unlucky to kill a raven. 
If this birds alights and hcdts on any part of a homestead, it 
is regarded as a token of prosperity and pleasure. 

Old Welsh superstition states that if blind people are kind 
to ravens, they will soon learn how to regain their lost sight. 

In Wales it is considered fortunate to see two crows before 
setting out on a journey. Old rhymes on the crow run thus : 

** Two crows I see ; 
Good luck to me*'; and 

" One for sorrow, two for mirth. 
Three for a wedding, four for a birth." 

A single crow is regarded as an omen of evil if it crosses a 
person's path. In former times people said if a crow hovered 
or circled above a person's head, it was a sign of decapitation. 

If a carrion crow makes three circles around a field, croaking 
all the time, the owner or tenant of the land may expect 
heavy losses in flocks and herds. 

Magpies were regarded with disfavour by the Welsh. If they 
crossed any person's path, disaster would follow. If a magpie 
hovered over a man's head, it was formerly believed, that he 
would be decapitated. 

There is an old Welsh couplet running thus : 

** One magpie means misfortune. 
Two magpies mean good luck." 

^ * T. C. Evans, ** History of Llangynwyd," p. 150. 


And another runs : 

*' Three magpies mean a burying, 
Four magpies bring a wedding." 

Among insects, various kinds of beetles were associated with 
the old folk-stories. 

The dung-beetle was called the devil's coach-horse. 

The small gold-beetle was placed to creep upon unmarried 
girls* hands, and then allowed to fly away. The direction in 
which it flew indicated the quarter where the future bride- 
groom lived. 

If on the gold-beetle's wings more than seven black spots are 
found, the com harvest will be scanty ; if less than seven, 
the harvest will be unusually abimdant. 

As in England, so in Wales, the rhyme of the ladybird is 

popular and well-known : 

" Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home ! 
Your house is on fire, your children will bum I" 

Bees, in the traditionary lore of Wales, draw their origin 
from Paradise,* which they had to leave owing to man's trans- 
gression. But God gave them His blessing, and bade them 
descend from heaven to earth, where they suck out of every 
blossom Divine nectar ; therefore Mass could not be simg with- 
out wax. 

The clear, sweet honey was a chief ingredient of the Divine 
drink sacred to the Druids. 

If the queen bee flew to any child in his sleep, people said he 
would be unusually fortunate in life. 

In Wales they say if you do not confide all your joys and 
sorrows to the bees, all your hives will waste away within the 
ensuing year. 

In the superstitions regarding bees, the Welsh say a hive 
given to or bestowed upon any person will bring good luck to the 
homestead ; but a hive of bees bought will not thrive so well. 

Sunday is considered a lucky day for swarming bees. 

A strange swarm of bees settling on a house or entering a 
garden is a token of prosperity or good luck. 

It is very imfortunate for a swarm of bees to leave a house. 
* Davies, '* Mythology," p. 260. 


At the same time, if a swarm of strange bees enters a house, 
misfortune and death will soon follow them. 

It was formerly customary in Wales for the head of the 
household to tell the bees whenever a death took place in the 
family. The news should be whispered cautiously. 

A widow, at her husband's death, knocked several times at 
the beehive, saying, " He's gone ! he's gone !" The bees 
hummed in reply, and by this the woman understood they 
decided to remain where they were. If they had not responded, 
she would have known they intended quitting the place. 

[/. R] 

Beehives were always turned completely round before a 

In some parts of Wales they say a swarm of bees settling on 
a house foretokens a fire. 

It is said bees and crickets bring blessings to the house, and 
it is unlucky to kill them or spiders. 



ALL growths that did not owe their origin to seed or root 
were regarded as miraculous and endowed with magical 
power. For this reason the mistletoe was held in awe, 
and gall-nuts were suspended from the kitchen beams and 
rafters, to protect the house against the mischief of Satan and 

The mistletoe* was regarded as particularly sacred, and in 
Druidical days the cutting of it was attended by great cere- 
mony. The blossoms of the mistletoe generally appear just 
before the summer solstice, and the berries within a few days of 
the winter solstice. Thus they indicated the return of two 
of the usual seasons for holding bardic conventions. When 
the sacred rites were finished, the berries were gathered and 
preserved for medicinal purposes. 

In ancient times it appears to have grown only on the oak, 
but in later centuries it grew on the ash, birch, hazel, apple, 
and pear trees. 

It still grows in profusion in the border counties of Wales* 

This plantf is called by the Welsh Pren Awyr, or merry tree ; 
Pren Uchelvar, or tree of the high summit ; and Pren Puraur, 
or tree of pure knowledge. 

So late as the early part of the nineteenth century, people in 
Wales believed that for the mistletoe to have any power, it must 
be shot or struck down with stones off the tree where it grew. 

There was formerly a superstition in Mid-Wales that if the 
mistletoe was found growing on an ash or hazel> a snake or a 
viper, with a jewel on its head, would be discovered imder the 

♦ Davies, " Mythology," pp. 278, 279. f Ibid,, pp. 280, 281. 



tree, or some kind of treasure was concealed beneath the 

In some parts of Wales people believed that a sprig of 
mistletoe which had been used in the Christmas decoration of a 
church would bring good luck for the ensuing year to its pos- 
sessor. If an unmarried woman placed a sprig of mistletoe 
taken from the parish church imder her pillow, she would 
dream of her future husband. 

In some parts of Wales it was considered an act of desecra- 
tion to include mistletoe in church decorations, and whoever 
did so would be unlucky for the next twelve months. 

In rural places where mistletoe was abundant there was 
always a profusion of it in the farmhouses. Welsh farmers 
used to say, when mistletoe was scarce : " No mistletoe, no 
luck." They also said that mistletoe brought good luck to the 
dairy. To insure this, a branch of mistletoe was given to, oj 
placed beside, the first cow that gave birth to a calf after the 
first hour of the New Year. In the agricultural districts where 
mistletoe grows the farmers believe that when it is unusually 
abundant an exceptionally prosperous year may be expected. 

It was considered fatal to allow the mistletoe or any Christ- 
mas decoration to remain in the house after Twelfth Night, 
and it was lucky to make a bonfire of the evergreens. 

In Wales, like all other places, the mistletoe is an emblem of 
love, and a kiss given to any matron or maiden imder it was 
jegarded as a compliment, and not an insult. 
» A sprig of mistletoe gathered on St. John's Eve, or any time 
before the berries appeared, and placed under the pillow, would 
induce dreams of omen, both good and bad. It would also 
reveal events likely to take place during the year. It was 
considered particularly imlucky for anybody to bring mistletoe 
into the house before Christmas. 

Holly was regarded with superstition. If brought into the 
house before Christmas Eve strife, family quarrels, and dis- 
putes would ensue. Here it may be mentioned that the 
old people said, if you pluck a sprig of holly in flower, there 
will be a death in your family. If you bring holly-flowers 
into the house you live in, or into a friend's dwelling, there 
will be a death on the premises within a year and a day. The 


person who severs the holly-flowers from the bush will meet! 
with misfortune, accident, or death. 

Selago,* or hedge-hyssop, is said to be the herb formerly 
known to the Welsh as Gras Duw. It was a Druidical herb, 
and the orthodox way of gathering it was with the right hand 
well covered. The herb was then to be drawn with the left 
hand imder a cloth. The person who gathered it had to be 
robed in white, and his bare feet were to be previously washed. 
He must also be bare-headed. Iron was not to touch or be 
used to cut the herb. Among the Druids a sacrifice of bread 
and wine was made before the plant was gathered, and it was 
carried in a clean napkin to a place near the altar. This plant 
was in the days of old regarded as a charm against all mis- 
fortune. It was seldom found, and then generally by a holy 
person. This herb shines like gold, and it was customary to 
pluck it in the meadows before sunrise. 

He who accidentally trod upon selago fell asleep, and after- 
wards awpke to be able to imderstand the language of birds 
and animals. 

Some think the selago to be the lycopodium. 

Valerian had healing and magical powers of high repute. 
Girls used to conceal it in their girdles and inside their bodices, 
in order to secure the admiration of the opposite sex. In the 
Middle Ages it was considered efficacious against the plague. 
It is still used for various purposes in Wales. 

Basil-roots were chopped up finely and mixed with pig's 
wash, to keep them free from disease. 

In Mid-Wales the fern had curious properties. The people 
used to say that the man who could gather fern-seed would be 
able to daimt the devil ! It was formerly customary for wag- 
goners to place a bunch of fern over their horse's ears or on the 
horse-coUar, to " keep the devil away " and to " baffle witches." 
[Family Collection,] 

Fern-seed was supposed to render people invisible. 

A very amusing story about fern-seed came from the neigh- 
bourhood of the Garth Mountain, Glamoigan. An aged 
Welshman said that when he was a small boy he heard his 
grandfather gravely relating the experience of a neighboiu 
♦ Davies, " Mythology/' p. 280. 


who chanced to be coming homeward through the mountain 
fern on Midsiunmer Night between twelve and one o'clock. At 
that hour fem-seed is supposed to ripen, to fall off directly, 
and be lost. Some of the fem-seed fell upon his coat and into 
his shoes. He thought nothing of this, but went home ; and 
as the family had gone to bed, he, being tired, flung himself 
into the fireside comer of the old-fashioned oaken settle. In 
the morning he was much surprised that his mother and sisters 
took no notice of him. Thinking they were offended, he said : 
" Well, come, now ; I won't be so late coming home again — 
no, indeed." 

His mother and sisters looked frightened, for they heard the 
man's voice, but could not see him. 

" Come, now ; what's on me ?" he asked. " You look as if 
you'd seen a ghost." 

His mother and sisters screamed with fright. 
'* Come on, now ; no joking," said the man. " 'Tis me my- 
self, and nobody else." 

Again the women screamed. 

Then he chanced to stroke his coat, and, feeling something in 
one of his shoes, he took it off, and removed what he thought 
to be grit in it. Instantly he stood revealed to everybody. 
The fem-seed had rendered him invisible ! 
The man who told this story said that when he was a boy 
not a person would wear a fern of any kind — ^first, because it 
caused men to lose their paths ; and secondly, because adders 
were likely to follow you so long as it was worn. [C £>.] 

Rosemary was regarded as an excellent remedy against 
chronic drunken habits. For this reason an infusion of it was 
often put in the cask or measure of beer. It also kept beer 
from turning sour. 

The smoke of its burning bark would release a person from 
prison. The leaves pressed and applied as a poultice kept 
wounds from running. Placed on the doorpost, it prevented 
adders and snakes from entering the house. Spoons made 
from the wood of it rendered all food placed therein highly 

A bush of me was always kept in old-fashioned gardens, 
and an infusion of it was administered to people suffering from 


convulsions or fits of any kind. Rosemary and rue kept 
witches away. 

Mugwort was connected with several superstitions. It was 
asserted that if a man wore a bit of mugwort in his coat he 
would never get weary. A bit of it kept in the house " would 
scare the devil away/' and protect the property from fiends 
and witches. The juice of this plant was regarded as a cure 
for consumption. 

An old rhyme, well known in some parts of South Wales, 
runs thus : 

*' Drink nettle tea in March, 
And mugwort tea in May, 
And cowslip wine in June, 
To send decline away.*' 

Nettles boiled and eaten were supposed to quicken the senses 
and clear the brain. If you would cultivate a good memory, 
use nettles as a vegetable in the spring. A bunch of nettles 
in broth was supposed to induce appetite and promote sleep. 
Marigolds were used for the same purpose. 

Vervain was one of the sacred plants of the Druids. With it 
were associated th« trefoil and the hyssop. 

The Druids* used it in casting lots and foretelling future 
events. It was also in great request as a love-philtre. Ver- 
vain was to be gathered at the rising of the Dog-star, " without 
having been looked upon by the sun or moon.'* The earth 
around it was prepared by a libation of honey. The left hand 
was to be used in digging it up, and the moment that process 
was over the plant had to be waved above the head of the person 
who dug it. All the leaves, stalk, and root were to be divided 
and dried separately in the shade. The floors of banqueting 
halls, the tables for feasts, and the cushions of regal apartments 
were always sprinkled with the water in which vervain had for 
a long time been infused. 

The sow-thistle had magical properties, and people said he 
that carried it in his belt or put a leaf of it in his hat would 
be able to run and never get tired. At the same time, it would 
take the strength out of his companion, and if by accident a 
man gave some of the leaves of it to his wife, one of the persons 
would waste away and die. It was generally applied to a cut or 
* Davies, ** Mythology," p. 276. 



gash made by the hoof or teeth of a hog. Sometimes it was 
thrown in or near the swine-trough, that the pigs might fatten 
quickly ; and formerly some of it was tied to the tails of horses 
before a ploughing match. Neither the devil nor any witch 
or hag of the night could harm the person who wore a leaf of . 
the sow-thistle. 

Betony is known in Welsh as " St. Bride's comb." It was 
lucky for the girl whose sweetheart was the earliest to find the 
first betony. Worn in the hat, it was supposed to confound 
witches and keep evil spirits away. In some parts of Wales 
it is called the " Bishop's flower." The Bdltan fire was in- 
complete without betony. 

Henbane was regarded as a plant of evil repute, and people 
told the children that if they ate ever so little a bit of it, they 
would " go raving mad." A decoction of it given to persons 
suffering from tendencies to insanity, or any kind of mental 
trouble, would quickly work a cure. There was a belief that 
if any young child feU asleep near the henbane, he would 
" sleep for ever." 

The periwinkle is called " the plant of the dead." It used 
to be grown chiefly on graves. It is unlucky to uproot the 
periwinkle from a grave, as to pluck a flower of it, for the dead 
wiU appear to the person who takes either, and his dreams 
for the next twelve months will be very wretched and miserable. 

In many parts of Wales the black bryony, with its dark green 
and glossy leaves and brilliant red berries, which clings to trees 
and shrubs, and has no tendrils, was known as the mysterious 
and uncanny mandrake. The leaves and fruit were called 
" chamel food," and formerly it was supposed only to grow 
beside the gallows-tree or near cross-roads. Witches gathered 
the leaves and flowers, and uprooted the plant for magical 
purposes. When uprooted it shrieked and groaned like a 
sensible human being, and its agony was dreadful to hear. 
From its stalk a sweat like blood oozed, and with each drop 
a faint scream was heard. There was an old saying that 
people who uprooted the mandrake would die within a year. 
They would die groaning as the mandrake died, or approach 
their death raving, or uttering penitent prayers for having 
uprooted the imholy plant. 


Witches kept the mandrake, and were said to sell portions 
of it to people who wanted to find out secrets, to wives who 
desired offspring, and to people who wished for wisdom. 

In some of the old stories the origin of the mandrake was 
curious and mysterious. If an innocent man suffered on the 
gaUows-tree, and his tears fell to the earth, there would grow 
on the spot the broad-leaved, yellow-flowered mandrake. It 
was also supposed to grow mysteriously near the cross-roads 
where suicides were buried. A process for uprooting the 
mandrake was described as follows : " The person who wished 
to do so had to put cotton or wax in his ears, and go before 
sunrise on a Friday. With him he had to take a black dog 
that had not a white hair on him. After making the sign of 
the cross thrice over the mandrake, the man or witch, as the 
case might be, had to dig around the plant till the root held by 
thin fibres only. Then he had to tie the roots with a string to 
the dog's tail, hold a piece of bread before him, and move away. 
The dog would rush after the bread, and thus wrench up the 
root of the mandrake. Then, pierced by the agonizing groans 
of the mandrake, the dog would fall dead at the man's feet. 

Leeks are associated with victory by the Welsh. It is one 
of the national emblems of Wales, and, in common with the 
Scandinavian races, was probably used by the early Britons 
when victorious on the battlefield. It was at one time supposed 
that a person who had leeks or garlic on his body at the time 
of a fight would be victorious without a wound. Men notorious 
as fighters in Wales wore the leek in their caps, and were accus- 
tomed to rub their bodies with leeks, wild onions, or garlic 
before encounters with opponents. In the days of old a leek 
was thrown into the loving cup. At Courts Leet in Glamorgan 
so late as 1850 this was done. [C. D. Family Collection,'] 

With the leek people made divinations, and when worn, it 
scared evil spirits and enemies away. It is considered lucky 
to have a bed of leeks growing in the garden. 

With reference to the leek as one of the national emblems 
of Wales, there are many theories. Whether the common or 
garden leek or the daffodil was used in battle is a disputed 
point. In the traditions of Wales the matter is not very clear. 
The daffodil is called in some places the leek of St. Peter, 


sometimes the leek of the Goslings, and the leek of the spring. 
It is also called " Croeso 'r Gwanwyn/' the " welcome of 
spring," and " Gwanwyn 'r brenin,'* the " king of the spring/' 
St. Non the Blessed, the mother of St. David, was associated 
with the daffodil, which grew in profusion in the Vale of 
Aeron, where the patron saint of Wales was bom on March i. 
At that season of the year the daffodil would be the most 
prominent flower. [C. D.] 

Whatever may be said in favour of the daffodil, the claim of 
the common, wild, or cultivated leek is strongly supported by 
the assertion that in primitive times victorious warriors wore 
it, and so late as the last half of the eighteenth, and first part 
of the nineteenth, century champions and fighters patronized it. 

Poor Robin's Almanack for 1757 contains the following 
verse for the month of March 

'* The first of this month some do keep 
For honest Taflf to wear his leek, 
Whose patron was, they say, of Wales. 
And since that time — cup-plutter-a-nails ! — 
Along the street this day doth strut. 
With hur green leek stuck in hur hat, 
And if she meet a shentleman, 
Salutes in Welsh ; and if hur can 
Discourse in Welsh, then hur shall be 
Amongst the green-homed Taffy s free.*' 

The Diverting Post, 1705, refers to the pungent odour of 
the leek : 

** Why on St. David's Day do Welshmen seek 
To beautify their hats with verdant leek. 
Of nauseous smell ? * For honour 'tis,' hur say, 
Dulce et decorum est pro patria. 
Right, sir, to die or fight it is, I think. 
But how is't dulce when for it you — stink V* 

The house-leek, so often seen upon the garden-walls and 
housetops, or somewhere on the premises, was considered to be 
a protection from thunderbolts, lightning, and fire. 

The lungwort is called the " herb of Mary," and was a proof 
against witches. Many flowers and herbs are associated with 
the Madonna and St. Bridget, and all of them were worn or 
used as a protection against witches and evil spirits. 

Springwort was supposed to indicate where hidden treasures 
might be foimd, and particularly minerals. Enclosed in a 


man's stick, it would lead the owner to places where iron-ore 
could be found, and also protect him against robbers. 

Saxifrage, or sassafras, was regarded as a rock-breaking 
plant. People said it would split the hardest stone growing 
near it. When worn near the heart it had the power of render- 
ing the wearer victorious over his enemies, and removing all 
obstacles from his way. 

P^iThe devil's bit, or Scabiosa succisa, was regarded with awe. 
Old people said it was once very beautiful and powerful in the 
healing art, but the devil bit it away, because he envied man- 
kind its virtues. 

Elecampane was considered a lucky plant to wear in the 
hat or cap, because it had the power to frighten robbers, 
thieves, and all sly people. If placed in the cap of a deceptive 
person, the latter would immediately get very red in the face. 
Welsh children have a rhyme running thus : 

** Elecampane, what is my name ? 
If you ask me again, I will tell you the same." 

The common teasel was a protection against witches. Water 
or dew standing in the hollow of its leaves was a remedy for 

Stonecrop is seen on many of the thatched and other 
cottages and farmsteads in Wales. It was originally placed 
there as a protection against thunderbolts, lightning, and 

Ground-ivy, with its small blue flowers, was a sanitary herb 
or weed, and a safeguard against sorcery. In the past, milk- 
maids wore it when first milking the cows in the pastures. 

An infusion of ground-ivy grown near eye-wells was con- 
sidered good for bathing weak eyes. A poultice made of 
ground-ivy leaves applied to sore eyes invariably cured them. 
The clover or shamrock, sometimes called the trefoil, was 
connected with the name of Olwen, the beautiful daughter* of 
the "hawthorn-headed" giant. Wherever Olwen trod a 
four-leaved shamrock sprang up. It was considered lucky, and 
a token of marriage, to find the four-leaved variety. Worn 
upon the person, or placed under the pillow, it induced cheerful- 

♦J* The Mabinogion," p. 219. 


ness of mind, and made people light-hearted. It is given and 
accepted as an emblem of good luck. 

Parsley was regarded as a root the leaves of which " cleared 
the brain." It was considered very unlucky to accept a root 
of parsley, but you could take the leaves for luck. If the 
parsley withers, there will be a death in the house. If it grows 
and flourishes, peace and plenty are promised. If you give 
away a root of parsley, you will give away your luck. 

Lemon- thyme, thyme, marjoram, and savory were grown in 
old-fashioned gardens for luck, and these herbs were shunned 
by witches and fairies. They scared spirits away, and it was 
customary to scatter them upon the dead, to throw bunches 
of them on the coffin when in the grave ; and some of the old 
women say that when they were girls, they would wear sprigs 
of those herbs, with mint and lavender, to bring them sweet- 
hearts. Mint and peppermint leaves were worn for luck in 
business transactions. 

Meadow-sweet is regarded as a fatal flower in Wales. There 
is an old story to the effect that if a person falls asleep in a room 
where many of these flowers are placed, death is inevitable. 
It is called a death-flower and a poisonous plant, for the effects 
of which there is no antidote. It is considered quite dangerous 
for anybody to fall asleep in a field where it is to be foimd in 

Primroses, apple, and all wild-fruit blossoms were among the 
sacred offerings of the Druids, with whom the selago and crocus 
were popular. 

Triple leaves, plucked at hazard from the common ash, were 
in the days of old worn by those who desired prophetic dreams 
concerning a dilatory lover. Leaves of the yellow trefoil 
answered the same purpose. 

Lilac blossoms were supposed to indicate changes of the 
weather. If they kept closed longer than usual, fine warm 
weather might be expected. If they opened rapidly, rain 
would fall soon. If the lilacs quickly droop and fade, a warm 
simimer will follow. Late-flowering lilacs indicate a rainy 

May blossoms, buds, and flowers from certain old thorns 
were never gathered or brought into the house, for fear " death 


would follow." Branches of whitethorn were suspended outside 
houses on May Day to keep witches away. For outdoor use 
and decoration may blossoms and whitethorn sprays were 

Cowslips are still used as a pretty test by children in Wales, 
who make the blossoms into flower-balls. These they toss up, 
and catch with the right hand only, while repeating : 

" Pistey, postey, four-and-forty, 
How many years shall I live ? 
One, two, three, four,** 

and so on, until the ball falls at the fateful nmnber. 

Cowslip-tea and cowslip- wine were said to " strengthen the 
senses. '* 

In Wales the daisy is generally selected by the doubting 
maiden who is wishful to test the fidelity of her lover. Gather- 
ing a daisy, she commences plucking the petals off, saying with 
each one, " Does he love me ? — much — a little — devotedly — 
not at all !" And the last petal decides the question. An 
old Welsh belief indicated that the daisy was first planted on 
a baby's grave by infant angels. Another belief was that the 
first daisy owed its origin to the death of a beautiful and royal 
infant, who was transformed into a new and lovely flower in the 
land. [0. 5.] 

Marjoram, St. John's wort, and white heather were capable 
of scaring the devil. Wild marjoram and thyme, thrown into 
a fairy ring, would bewilder and confuse the fairies. 

St. John's wort blossomed on St. John's Day, and in honour 
of that festival people formerly decorated their houses with it, 
adding thereto birch, larch, fennel, and the flower of St. John. 
In Wales St. John's wort is frequently called the *' school or 
ladder of Christ." 

The scarlet pimpernel, known as the " poor man's clock," 
which opens at 7 a.m. and closes about 2 p.m., was regarded 
as a barometer. On the approach of rain the flowers will not 
open, or, if open, close at once. Gloomy and melancholy people, 
and those who were very much depressed in spirits, were ac- 
customed to drink an infusion of pimpernel. Worn in the hat, 
cap, coat, or bodice, it was supposed to keep sad thoughts from 



the wearer. Placed under the pillow at night, it brought 
pleasant and soothing dreams. 

In some parts of Wales daffodils are known as '* babies' 

bells.*' People say that only infants and very young children 

• can hear them ringing. It is considered very lucky to find the 

first daffodil, for you will have more gold than silver that year. 

Forget-me-nots were associated in Wales with hidden treasure, 
and their talismanic power was considerable. This flower pro- 
moted prosperity and fidelity. At the same time, it was re- 
garded as imlucky for lovers to give each other a forget-me-not, 
because it indicated estrangement, a severance, or improb- 
ability of marriage between the pair. 

Lavender blossoms brought luck to the wearer. Sprigs of 
lavender worn about the person were capable of bewildering 
witches and confusing evil spirits. They also quickened the 
wits or senses of dull-minded people, and cleared the brains of 
poets and preachers. Lavender-water purified the face. 

Golden broom is called by the Welsh the " goldfinch of the 
meadows,"* and was among the wedding blossoms. It was used 
as a charm, and if waved over a restless person, it induced sleep. 

In the parish of Llanganten, Breconshire, it is asserted that 
the broom has never grown again on the spot where Llewelyn, 
the last native Prince of Wales, was slain. The dingle was 
formerly overgrown by broom. 

The old-fashioned bridal flowers of Wales were pansies of all 
colours, roses of every description, excepting any shade of 
yellow, prick-madam, gentle heart, lady's fingers, lady's smock, 
prickles, blossoming gorse or fiurze, red clover bloom, scarlet 
fuchsia, golden rod, ivy, shamrock, a few straws, and heather, 
which is considered very lucky. May blossoms are unlucky 
for weddings. 

Yarrow, sprigs of yew and box, are funeral tokens in Wales. 
The yarrow, sometimes named " boy's love," is called the 
" death flower "in Wales, where it is considered a token of 
death if brought into the house. 

On the wild-rose brambles and the whitethorn there is often 
a moss-like excrescence. In Wales they say if this is placed 
under the pillow of a person who cannot sleep, it will perfectly 

* Davies, *' Mythology,*' p. 283. 


restore him. But it was necessary to remove it at a given time, 
or, according to the old story, he would never awake. 

The thorn-apple was considered in some mysterious way to 
be closely connected with, and used by, wizards and witches. 
It assisted their incantations, and helped them to develop the 
cult of second sight. In Puritanical times those who grew it 
in their gardens were in danger of being persecuted, or burnt 
for wizards or witches. 

It is regarded as very unluOky to a household when flowers 
that only flourish in the summer bloom in the winter. Quite 
recently an old Welsh woman said : " I thought death was 
coming, because all my geraniums have been in flower from 
November to February." Three of her very near relatives 
died within those months. 

On the small islands of the Steep and Flat Holms, Sully and 
Barry, in the Bristol Channel, the blossoming of the burnet 
rose out of its proper season was regarded as an omen of ship- 
wreck and disaster. 

The blossoming of Christmas roses late in the spring indicates 
imexpected events in West Wales. A primrose blooming in 
June, and a summer rose unfolding in November or December, 
are regarded as signs of trouble and bad luck by people living in 

If ivy growing on an old house begins to fall away from the 
walls or becomes shrivelled, people predict financial disaster 
or misfortune to the owner of the property, or the property 
will soon pass out of the present owner's possession. 

With reference to the blossoming of fruit-trees out of season 
many stories are told. Their untimely appearance indicates 
trouble, calamity, sickness, or death. In Wales, when blossoms 
appear in the orchards and hedgerows through a whole district 
out of their proper season, people predict epidemic sickness, 
many deaths, and a " hard winter." Individual instances of 
untimely blossoms in orchards and gardens indicate misfortune, 
trouble, or death to the occupant of the house. When plum- 
trees blossom in December it is a " sure sign of death." In a 
• remote village, when a certain crab-apple-tree overhanging a 
well blossoms out of season, there are said to be more births 
and marriages than deaths during the ensuing year. r'Wh^ejn- 


ever a very old plum-tree blossoms in a certain Glamorgan 
farm, a wedding takes place in the family. 

With reference to fruit, the following particulars are interest- 
ing : An old house-book in South Glamorgan contained this 
-note : " The old greengage-tree has produced two plums only 
this year (1830). By this we know something unusual will 
happen, but good or evil I cannot tell. It mostly goes by 
reverses. Nine years ago it bore one plum, and my mother 
died. Seven years ago two plmns came, and my sister Gwen 
was married. Five years ago one plum came, and my brother 
John died. And now I wait to see what will happen.'* [C. Z).] 

The same book, bearing date 1837, has the following record : 
" In my uncle's garden the old apple-tree next the churchyard- 
wall has borne three apples, after being fruitless for the past nine 
years, and then there were three weddings in the family within 
one month." [C. D.] 

" Untimely fruit, untimely news," is an old Welsh saying. 



AMONG all the trees of the forests and plains the oak stands 
pre-eminent. It was the sacred tree of the Druids, and 
the people held it in great reverence. 
Remnants of old-time superstitions with regard to the oak 
were to be found in Wales so late as sixty years ago, when it was 
customary in many districts for the young men and maidens 
to dance and sing around the oldest oak in the village. This 
was called a '* round dance." It took place as a rule at Easter, 
but Whitsuntide and Midsummer festivities were held under 
its branches. 

The oak and the ash, or the walnut, cannot grow close 
together without perishing. The blackthorn and the white- 
thorn " cannot agree," for the white one always gets the 
** upper hand " and " kills the black one." It is further said 
that a piece of oak rubbed upon the left hand in silence on 
Midsummer Day will heal all open sores. 

The oak was prophetic. The curling of its leaves foretokened 
heat. A fly in a gall-nut or " oak-apple " gathered by anybody 
was a " sure sign of a quarrel." A worm in it was a token of 
poverty ; a spider in it was a sign of illness. 

An aged Welshwoman told me that when she was a girl it 
was customary for young unmarried women to take two acorn 
cups, and name one for their sweetheart and one for self. 
These acorn cups were then set to float in a pan or bowl of 
water. If the acorn cups sailed together, marriage would 
follow ; if they drifted apart, there would be a separation. 

There was a beHef prevalent in some parts of Wales that at 
certain seasons of the year, particularly in the summer or early 



in the autumn, the oak-leaves whispered secrets of the ancient 
Druids, and any person gifted with prescience, if so minded, 
could understand what was said. 

It was considered dangerous to enter a grove of oaks at 
midnight, for the spirits of the past assembled there for 
Druidical service. This is probably the reason why there are 
so many " haunted oaks " in Wales. Each of the counties of 
Wales has its venerable " haunted oak," from which mysterious 
sounds are sometimes heard. Children and superstitious people 
do not care to wander where oaks are abundant. 

Groves of oak were sacred to the Druids, and the most 
beautiful tree of all was fixed upon as an emblem for their 
ceremonies. The Druids cut oif all the side branches, and then 
joined two of them to the higher side of the trunk, so as to 
fashion it into a figure of a cross. Above and below the inser- 
tion of these branches the word " Thau *' (God) was cut into 
the bark. Under this the most sacred rites of the Druids were 

Next in importance to the oak was the ash. 
It is still considered unlucky to break a branch off an ash- 

A garter made of the green bark of the mountain-ash was a 
talisman against witches, conjurers, sorcerers, and the devil. 

When cock-fighting was popular, it was customary to place 
a few crossed twigs or a ring of mountain-ash bark in the cock- 
pit. This was done to prevent any evil power impairing the 
courage of the combative birds. 

It was a charmed wood, and the bards of Wales invariably 
carved their Coelbren, or record stick, on wood of this tree. 

The ash was regarded as one of the spirit-haunted trees, and 
people avoided remaining long near it. At the same time 
they had a curious regard for the ash, which was supposed to 
find out the secrets of lovers, and to whisper them to the wind. 
The ash-grove is much mentioned in the poetry and songs of 
Wales, and the name is very frequently given to houses and 
even modem villas. Triple leaves of the ash worn at the breast 
caused prophetic dreams. 

PoUard^asheshad an important place in the old-time remedies 

♦ Meyrick, " Costumes," p. 25. 


of Wales. People used to catch a mouse, and shut it up in the 
ash, thereby " shutting up " their " bad luck." The bark of 
the ash or pollard-ash kept in the pocket, or rubbed in the hands, 
would scare away snakes, vipers, and other reptiles. 

The ash, the pollard-ash, and the mountain-ash, known as 
the rowan-tree, had many peculiar and magical attributes. 
The man who carried a stick made of mountain-ash could 
readily find out the hiding-places of snakes, trace the route 
taken by witches, and defy the temptations of the devil. 

It was considered lucky to have a mountain-ash growing near 
your premises. The berries brought into the house were fol- 
lowed by prosperity and success. A bunch of the berries worn 
in girdle or bodice kept women from being bewitched. 

The birch was held in high estimation among the Welsh. In 
former times, when a girl accepted an offer of marriage, she 
presented her lover with a wreath of birch-leaves. If she 
rejected the offer, she sent him a rod, or twig, or wreath of hazel. 
Many of the Welsh bards in the Middle Ages mention groves and 
summer-houses of birch, and the birch crowns or hats which 
their sweethearts sent them in proof of their affection. 

The Welsh maypole was always made of the birch-tree, and 

the birchen rod dealt its rebukes upon the neglectful schoolboy. 

The elder was regarded with considerable awe. In South 

Wales it was deemed very dangerous to build any premises on 

or near the spot where an elder-tree stood. 

In the past an elder planted before the door of a cow-shed or 
stable protected the cows and horses from witchcraft and 

Charms were made of elder-twigs that grew on willows. 
Nine sticks were tied with red ribbon or red rag, and worn by 
children to protect them against pain. 

In Wales people formerly would not bum elder- wood for fear 
of ill-luck. It was considered dangerous to build houses or any 
other premises where elders had stood, for the tenants would be 
continually changing. 

Elders were frequently found near stables and out-buildings, 
and it is said they would " bleed " if cut. An ©Id Carmarthen- 
shire man said that in his grandfather's days people declared 
that the elder-tree wept or bled when cut. When hewn they 


were generally allowed to decay, because if burnt the witches 
would be roused. It was asserted that the elder-mother lived 
between the bark and the tree, and it was unlucky to bum her ; 
therefore she must be allowed to die. 

Infusions of elder flowers were used for whitening the skin. If 
the flowers were worn by a girl she might expect to see her 
lover in her dreams. The berries are used for wine-making, and 
at one time they were eaten to induce sleep and peace of mind. 

From the hazel, the rods of divination and wishing were made. 
The way in which these were formed in Carmarthenshire, 
Breconshire, and Glamorgan is thus described : 

The wood must be cut when the moon is new, and in a perfect 
crescent. It should have nine ends or twigs, and be taken from 
" an old hedge." The rod was held in the hand so that two tips 
were firmly grasped. The stem would then point to hidden 
things. Some said that if the point of the forked hazel was held 
up firmly in each hand, one of the twigs would bend irresistibly 
to the ground, and then you may be sure ore was not far away. 
By means of the hazel, or wishing-rod, men were able to 
discover springs of water^ hidden treasure, veins of ore, and 
new fields of coal. 

The wishing-cap or hat of Wales was generally composed of 
hazel leaves and twigs, but sometimes it was made of juniper 
sprigs and berries. Old people told the children that if one of 
these caps was worn on the head, it would be possible to obtain 
any wish ; but the twigs and leaves must be gathered at 
midnight, and at new or full moon, and they should be made up 
as quickly as possible. These caps would also enable the 
wearer to go to any part of the world " in the twinkling of an 
eye." If a skipper wore one under his usual headgear, his ship 
would ride safely through every storm. The wishing-cap could 
render people invisible if they so desired. It was sometimes 
called the " thinking-cap," by means of which the wearer could 
readily remember or invent nursery and other stories. A 
common expression at present in Wales when somebody 
desires to obtain anything is to say : *' I must put on my 
wishing-cap." If anybody wishes to invoke memory, he says : 
" I must put on my thinking-cap." 

A quaint nursery story describes old " Molly Holly " sitting 


in the fireside corner of the settle, and grumbHng and crooning 
because her husband was so peevish, her children were noisy 
and troublesome, and her neighbours were unkind. Then she 
put on her wishing-cap, and desired to be away from them all. 
" In the twinkling of an eye " she was gone, not to return until 
her husband, children, and neighbours put on hazel or juniper 
caps and sincerely wished her home. The origin of this story 
is obscure, and has some connection with the holly-tree. It 
was a popular story in Glamorgan years ago. [0. 5. and 
Family Collection.'] 

People said that he who cut down a juniper would die within 
the year. For this reason, in many parts of Wales aged 
junipers are carefully preserved, and it is customary to " let 
it die of its own will,'* or a natural death. 

Twenty years ago an old farmer Uving in Glamorgan 
asserted that three deaths in his family followed by disaster 
happened when " the old juniper was cut down.*' 

A resident in Carnarvonshire attributed losses in the family 
to the destruction of some aged junipers. 

Willow caps were presented to all people who were disap- 
pointed in love. It is customary in the present day for villagers 
in Wales to ask a rejected suitor on the morning of his sweet- 
heart's marriage to another man, " Where is your willow cap ?" 
or " We must make you a willow cap." The same applies to 
a spinster whose lover discards her for another girl. 

The yew was regarded as the gentle guardian of the dead, 
and was formerly revered so much in Wales that to cut it 
down was considered an act of desecration, while to bum any 
part of it was looked upon as sacrilege. 

Box-trees, plain or variegated, were n*ich in request in 
gardens and for bordering flower-beds. Sprigs of box were 
used at weddings and funerals, because they bewildered witches 
and scared the devil. To cut down a box-tree was considered 
a rash act, invariably punished by disaster. It was asserted 
that if a young or newly-married man uprooted or cut down a 
box-tree, his first child would be stillborn. 

Myrtle is much esteemed in Wales, where they say that if 
it grows on each side of the door the blessings of love and 
peace will never depart from the house. To destroy a myrtle 


is to " kill '* both love and peace. Sprigs of myrtle, with its 
blossoms, were not only used by brides, but in some parts of 
Wales they were worn in the girdle or bodice of young girls 
when going to their first Holy Communion. Sprigs were also 
. placed in cradles to make babies happy. 

At Aberglasney, Carmarthenshire, many years ago, there 
was a hawthorn which flowered every Christmas Eve, but by 
the next morning the blossoms were faded. The thorn was 
cut down, and since then the grass has grown green around it 
every Christmas Eve, and withered in the morning. [A. B.] 

A lonely house in Canton, near Cardiff, had a hawthorn that 
always bloomed for three nights only, and then withered. 
Occasionally it blossomed for a week, and whenever it did so 
there was a death in the family. The house has long since 
been demolished, and the garden covered by small habitations, 
but members of the family are still living. [Family Collec- 

In many of the rural districts of Wales where tumuli 
abound people said that whenever a hawthorn-tree stood in 
the centre of a single barrow, it denoted the resting-place of a 
renowned warrior. The children still call mounds and barrows 
with hawthorns in their midst " the warriors* graves.*' This 
is particularly noticeable in Glamorgan. 

The hawthorn was regarded as a safeguard against lightning, 
and the same virtue was attributed to the laurel and the vine. 

The dove appears to be more closely connected with woe 
than with joy in the Principality. 

Whenever a dove is seen hovering around the mouth of a 
colliery, the Welsh colliers of the present day regard its appear- 
ance as an omen of disaster. 

In July, 1902, there was a panic in Glyncorrwg, because a 
dove had been seen hovering over the colliery level, and other 
omens of trouble had been experienced. 

Glyncorrwg, near the head of the Cwmavon Valley, is one 
of the most dreary and desolate places in Glamorgan. 

The South Wales Echo of July 15, 1902, contained the 
following particulars, under the heading " A Batch of Evil 
Omens," which caused three hundred colliers to refuse to work 
in the pit : 


" The men have been whispering their fears to each other for 
some time past, but the drastic action of Monday was probably 
the outcome of so-called evil omens which are said to have 
been heard in the mine. About two months ago the night-men 
began to tell ' creepy ' tales of the strange and supernatural 
happenings which took place in the colliery every night. . . . 
Now and then a piercing cry for help would startle the men . . . 
and during the night-shift horrid shrieks rang through the 
black darkness of the headings, and frightened the men nearly 
out of their wits. . . . There is, of course, the usual tale of 
the dove hovering over the mouth of the level." 

The dove was seen before the Llanbradach Colliery ex- 
plosion, and also at the Senghenydd and at Morfa Collieries 
before similar disasters. 

Shepherds among the mountains surrounding the extinct 
volcano known as Llyn Dulyn, or the Black Lake, believed that 
the appearance of a dove near those dark and fateful waters 
foretokened the descent of a beautiful but wicked woman's 
soul to torment in the underworld. 

Swallows are regarded in Wales as messengers of peace. 

When swallows build new nests in the eaves of a house, 
there will be a death in that habitation within a year. 

In some parts of Wales people say if swallows forsake their 
old haunts under the eaves, it is a token of misfortune to the 
inmates of the house. 

It is also said that swallows are the first to pluck borrowed 
plumes from the jackdaw. The young of the swallow are 
commonly believed to be bom bUnd, but eventually gain 
their sight. If one of the offspring is bUnd, or anything 
happens to its sight, the mother bird knows where to find a 
powerful herb of healing, which she places on the eyes. Sight 
is thereby restored. 

Sometimes the bird has been watched by people who desire 
to find out the remedy ; but she always goes stealthily and in 
secret, and thus evades discovery. 

An old story describes the swallow to have been a seam- 
stress who, for stealing a ball of white yam, was changed into 
a bird. The white spot on the swallow indicates the stolen 
baU. [O.S.] 


The woodpecker is associated with Welsh lore. In the days 
of old this bird was regarded as being especially acquainted 
with the magical virtues of various herbs. 

Two stories about the woodpecker were formerly told in 

In the North of the PrincipaUty the people said that when 
Christ was on earth, He, after walking a long and weary distance, 
felt hungry. Seeing a woman making cakes, He begged one. 
He also asked for a draught of water. The woman refused 
both, whereupon Christ said : " Thou didst refuse Me both 
food and drink, and for this thou shalt be turned into a bird. 
Every day thou shalt feed of the stuff to be found between the 
wood and the bark of trees, and thou shalt only drink when it 
rains." The woman was instantly turned into a bird, and in 
this form she taps or pecks at hollow trees for food, and pipes 
loudly before rain. [0. 5., Family Collection, and C. D.] 

This story was also told in Carmarthenshire and Pembroke- 
shire about fifty years ago. 

In South Glamorgan, between fifty and sixty years ago, 
and in Gower still later, the following story about the wood- 
pecker was popular : A woodman neglected his wife and 
children and left them to starve. After their death he became 
a wanderer, but nobody knew where he went. But in after- 
years his spirit haunted the woods, and he could be heard here 
and there through the country-side felling oaks. In summer 
twilight and winter moonlight he could be heard alike. From 
morning until sunset he rests, but from twilight to dawn he 
may be heard tapping or felling the oaks. But his task is 
never done. This, they say, is the origin of the woodpecker, 
who is constantly tapping the " hollow beech-tree.** [A. B., 
C. D., and Family Collection.] 

Bats, whether grey, white, or black, are regarded in some 
parts of Wales as heralds of good luck. If an unmarried person 
chances to see one flapping its wings, he or she may be expected 
to be married within the year. 

. In certain parts of the country it is regarded as very unlucky 
if a bat circles or flutters over a person's head. 

In all parts of Wales the cuckoo is generally regarded as a 
bird of good luck. 


It is a common saying among the farmers and peasantry 
that if the cuckoo is seen before the leaves appear on the 
blackthorn, the year will be dry and unproductive. 

A child bom on the day that the cuckoo is first heard will 
be lucky and truthful. 

It is fortunate for lovers when together they hear the cuckoo 
first on a Sunday morning. 

The women say that if you remove the shoe from your foot 
when you first hear the cuckoo, you will find on your stocking 
a hair resembling in colour that of your future partner in life. 

It is fortunate if you have a piece of silver in your pocket 
when you first hear the cuckoo. 

In Wales, as in England, the following rhyme is popular : 

" The cuckoo's a fine bird : 

She sings as she flies ; 
She brings us good tidings. 

And tells us no lies. 
She sucks little birds' eggs 

To make her voice clear. 
And when she sings ' Cuckoo T 

The summer is near.'* 

The cuckoo has a herald or " handmaiden," who comes 
quite fourteen days in advance of the harbinger of summer. 
This bird is the wryneck, known in Welsh as Gwas-y-g6g. 

In many parts the cuckoo is regarded as a prophet. 

The children cry out : 

" Cuckoo, cuckoo, true answer give : 
How many years have I to live ?" 

As many times as the bird says " cuckoo " after the question 
is asked will be the number of years left to live. 
Girls ask : 

** Cuckoo, cuckoo, on the tree. 
How long before I wedded be ?" 

If in answer the cuckoo calls more than three or six times, 
the girls say the bird is bewitched. 

An old woman in Mid- Wales told me that the cuckoo was 
once a beautiful lady who wept over her brother's death until 
she was changed into a bird. 

In West Wales and in some parts of the North it is said 
that if, when you hear the cuckoo for the first time in the season, 


you are standing on grass or green moss, you will live to hear 
the bird next year. If you are standing on the earth or any 
red soil, you will die before the cuckoo comes again. 

In North and Mid- Wales the people say if the cuckoo cries 
more than six times, it is sitting on a bewitched bough, and 
bodes no good. 

In some parts of Wales the boys would roll their lazy com- 
panions in the grass when the cuckoo was first heard. This 
was to cure them of idleness. 

At one period the peasantry of Mid- Wales, when they heard 
the cuckoo for the first time in the season, rolled themselves 
three times in the grass, to insure freedom from back-ache, 
lumbago, and sciatica. 

If the cuckoo cries three times in succession immediately 
above a person's head, it means good luck. To see a cuckoo 
before the bird cries is a token that you will be able to find 
out hidden secrets in the season. To catch a cuckoo without 
killing it and let it go again means remarkable prosperity. 

The cuckoo is considered a miser, for it is said when the 
leaves come out in spring, she will not eat as much food as she 
desires, for fear it should run short before she takes flight. 

This bird is supposed to eat up the eggs of the hedge-sparrow, 
and put her own into that bird's nest. 

It is stated that when the cuckoo grows up the bird devours 
its foster-parents, and in winter it is transformed into a bird 
of prey. 

This bird is regarded as the embodiment of ingratitude, 
selfishness, and carelessness. 

It is a common phrase in Wales to call a young foolish woman 
a cuckoo, or to say, *' What a cuckoo you are !'* 

An old foolish woman is described as "An old cuckoo !" 

The robin redbreast and the wren are prominent in Welsh 

With reference to the robin, the following story is told in 
Wales : " Far, far away, in the land of woe, darkness, spirits 
of evil, and fire, day by day does the little bird bear in its bill 
a drop of water to quench the flame. So near to the burning 
stream does he fly that his little feathers are scorched, and 
hence his name Bron Rhuddyn, or breast-scorched. To serve 


little children the robin daxes approach the infernal pit. No 
good child will hurt the benefactor of man. The robin returns 
from the land of fire, and therefore he feels the cold of winter 
far more than his brother-birds. He shivers in the wintry 
blast. Hungry he chirps before your door. Oh, my child, 
then, in your gratitude, throw a few crumbs to the poor little 
robin redbreast !"* 

The poem by the American poet Whittier charmingly illus- 
trates the old Welsh nursery story. 

** My old Welsh neighbour o'er the way 
Crept slowly out in the sun in spring, 
Pushed from her ears the locks of grey, 
And listened to hear the robin sing. 

** Her grandson, playing at marbles, stopped 
And, cruel sport, as boys will be. 
Tossed a stone at the bird, who hopped 
From bough to bough in the apple-tree. 

** * Nay,* said the grandmother, * have you not heard> 
My poor bad boy, of the fiery pit. 
And how, drop by drop, this merciful bird 
Carries the water that quenches it ? 

** * He brings cool dew in his little bill. 
And lets it fall on the souls of sin ; 
You can see the marks on his red breast still 
Of fires that scorch as he drops it in. 

** * My poor Bron Rhuddyn, my breast-burned bird, 
Smging so sweetly from limb to limb ; 
Very dear to the heart of our Lord 
Is he who pities the lost, like Him.' 

** ' Amen,* said I to the beautiful myth ; 
* Sing, bird of God, in my heart as well ; 
Each good thought is a drop wherewith 
To cool and lessen the fire of hell.* 

** Prayers of love like raindrops fall. 
Tears of pity are cooling dew ; 
And dear to the heart of our Lord are all 
Who suffer like Him in the good they do." 

In the colliery districts of Wales the robin redbreast is 
regarded as a harbinger of calamity. The accompanying illus- 
tration of this superstition appeared in a leaderette in the South 
Wales Weekly News on September 14, 1901 : 

" There is a pathetic and melancholy interest in the mention 
* Well-known nursery story. 


of a ' bird of ill-omen ' in connection with the Llanbradach 
explosion. It is reported that several days before the explosion 
a robin redbreast was seen in the pump-house underground, 
where it had made its home. It was declared by some of the 
more superstitious of the miners that this was an ill-omen of 
coming disaster, for a similar bird had been noticed in the 
Senghenydd Mine just before the explosion there. A further 
paragraph announces that the bird was caught and brought 
to bank after the explosion, and when liberated, ' it flew away 
over the hilltops, apparently delighted to find itself once more 
in its native air/ Belief in omens and auguries may not be 
general amongst the miners, for the School Board and the 
railways have been too long in South Wales, but it is neverthe- 
less a fact that a section hold very strong beliefs in signs and 
portents of coming disasters. The black crow, or two black 
crows, flying east and west, are held to be a certain sign of 
coming accidents. Of course, the two black crows flying in 
opposite directions over Llanbradach were noticed, and simi- 
larly at Senghenydd, and some other collieries on the eve of 
disasters. The miners who are supposed to notice these signs 
and portents speak of them with the greatest mystery, and 
shake their heads gravely. But it was at Morfa where the 
greatest excitement was created over portents and auguries. 
The Morfa Colliery is situated near the sea, in a wild region. 
Shortly before the explosion at that colliery the men were dis- 
turbed by strange noises and tappings in one of the stalls. A 
bird had been seen, and the crows had flown over the colliery. 
Two of the miners had even noticed the spirits of two men 
pass on the road before them as they left the colliery for their 
homes. The workmen were in a state of consternation for 
some time, and a meeting was held secretly at dead of night 
to discuss the subject and decide what should be done. Either 
from fear of being laughed at or in dread of offending the 
' spirits,' which wanted to warn them of ' the wrath to come,' 
those who were present at the meeting kept silence and would 
not speak of it. That there was amongst the miners at Morfa 
a wholesome dread of spirits and a belief in their manifestations 
was placed beyond doubt, for rumours of spirits and knockings 
were rife throughout the colliery village, and the terrible 


disaster, no doubt, confirmed many of them in that belief. 
The Celtic imagination has peopled the West with stories of 
signs and portents, mysterious beings, corpse-candles, and 
death-hounds, and the Cornish miner is perhaps far more super- 
stitious than the small section of Welsh colliers who repeat 
these reports of black crows and strange tappings and warnings 
of disaster." 

A robin singing quite close to a window means vexation, 
sorrow, or annoyance. If this bird ventures over the threshold, 
it is a harbinger of iUness or death. 

If you destroy the nest of a redbreast, there will be a death 
in the family within a year, or there wiU be a fire in the house, 
or lightning will strike the premises. 

If you kill a redbreast, a series of misfortunes or some unusual 
calamity will befaU your family. 

To steal the redbreast's eggs was very unfortunate. The 
theft made the person a victim of witches or the devil. 

The wren's life was particularly sacred because of its Druidi- 
cal associations. The robin and the wren must never be killed. 
The following story about these birds is told in several 
localities : 

The robin cannot fly through a hedge, say the people, but 
always goes over it. The wren cannot fly over a hedge, but 
always through it. For this reason it is said the birds were 
*** under a curse." 

If you kill a wren your house will be burned down. 
The water-wagtail is called in Wales " little lady wash-dish." 
The old women used to teU the children that Merlin the en- 
chanter set several animals and birds to dig a channel for 
the overflow of a brook ; but the wagtail sat on a branch of 
a tree and watched the others at work. Merlin said : " Thou 
canst do nothing but trim thyself up and be idle." The bird 
answered : " I do not like to soil my fine white feet." " Oh, 
thou fop !" said Merlin. " Henceforth thou shalt have black 
feet, and drink out of puddles and gutters, and sing only before 
rain and storms." From that moment the wagtail slaked her 
thirst in the rain-pools, and hopped about the rain- wet road, and 
flew low, skimming the ground, before heavy showers or in rainy 
seasons. [0. S., C. D., and Family Collection.] 



Another story says the bird was so vain and fine that he 
was doomed by a wizard to be always looking for dish-water for 
clean and tidy housewives. Hence she was called " little lady 
wash-dish/' [0, 5. and Family Collection.] 

Farmers and shepherds in Wales never kill a wagtail, because 
it is considered imlucky to do so. 

The yellow-hammer was supposed to suck or taste blood 
from the veins of vampires, and it was formerly regarded as a 
herald of the approach of evil spirits. 

The hen was an emblem of the goddess Ceridwen, or Ceres, 
and was sacred to the Britons. Taliesin, the bard, says of 
Ceridwen : " The red-fanged hen with the parted crest received 
me, and I rested nine nights in her womb.'* In another poem 
he says that when Ceridwen pursued him in a fury, she took the 
form of a black high-crested hen, and scratched him out of a 
heap of wheat, where he attempted to conceal himself, and 
then swallowed him in the shape of a grain of corn. 

The swan appears in many of the legends and traditions of 
Wales, and in the fairy-lore the bird is very prominent. 

An old Welsh story describes the eggs of the swan as being 
hatched by thimder and lightning, and, in common with other 
nationalities, the people believed that the bird sang its own 

A swan's egg — because of its rarity, perhaps — was a lucky 
thing to be kept in th^ house. 

A curiosity of this kind was carefully kept in the family of a 
Welsh farmer, who said the specimen was about two himdred 
years old. If ever it was shattered, all the freehold property of 
the family would pass into other hands. This actually happened 
in 1850, and the prediction was fulfilled. 

It was imlucky to see a wild swan alighting in any person's 
garden, for it meant disaster to a member of the family. A 
wild swan flying hurriedly inland alone promised sad tidings 
from the sea. If wild swans flew in flocks inland, wrecks of 
numerous and costly ships were to be expected. 

Geese cackling and making much noise at midnight, or any 
unusual hour after going to roost, are said to portend theft and 
robbery on the premises. When they turn back home after 
starting out, a stranger may be expected. 


If a goose or a duck lay one soft and one hard egg, or two 
eggs in a day, misfortune in the family is foretokened. 
Farmers' wives will not aUow eggs to be brought into or taken 
out of the house after dark, for it is unlucky. If sittings of 
the eggs of a goose, fowl, or duck are brought indoors between 
sunset and sunrise, the farm- wife says they will never be hatched, 

A grey goose straying into a neighbour's yard is a token of 
slander. When flocks of geese or ducks or fowls desert their 
homes, death is coming among the inmates. 

If geese, fowls, or ducks wander far, and seek new abodes 
among strangers, there is danger of a fire in their old haunts. 

It is very lucky to find the feathers of geese, ducks, fowls, or 
any wild bird stuck in the groimd as you are walking through 
fields or meadows. You will soon have unexpected money, and 
good news before the day is out. 

It is unlucky to find a grey gander's feather in the same 

When a goose is flying over a house the goodman's shroud is 
being woven. To meet three geese when starting on a journey 
is a token of success. If geese hiss at you, be sure enemies are 
working against your interests. Many grey geese in a flock 
portend many experiences. A black goose in a flock means 
that the devil is at work in the household. The shells of geese 
and ducks are always thrown on the fire, lest witches should 
find them and use them for coracles on their nocturnal trips to 
the opposite coast. It is considered unlucky to eat cooked 
goose unless before or after it you partake of giblet-soup or 




WINDS and storms take their place in Welsh lore. In the 
North the raising of the whirlwind was attributed to the 
eagles of Snowdon; in the South they said it was brought 
about by wicked and malicious elves and fays, and in Mid- 
Wales they said it was raised by the devil and his hosts when 
they had a meeting among the Black Mountains. 
f^ The wind blowing wildly on New Year's Night was regarded 
f in some parts of Wales as an omen of pestilence. In other 
^parts it foretokened death. In some places they used to say 
when a sudden wind sprang up, '' A man has hanged himself,'' 
while a roaring wind foretokened a case of suicide in the parish. 
The howling wind breathes " misfortune," and the whistling 
wind means " mischief somewhere." The wind '* blowing 
over the feet of the corpse," or over the " breast of the corpse," 
or the " breast of the grave," was sad to hear, for it was unlike 
any other sound, and promised " heavy grief " and " care and 
sorrow in plenty." 

In the past the old people regarded the wind to be both 
hungry and thirsty, for it was customary to throw out a handful 
of flour, barley-meal, or oatmeal into the wind, and it was 
generally followed by a bowl of water or a cup of milk. 
These offerings were supposed to pacify the storm. They 
also breathed their wishes to the balmy west and south 
winds, and the soft breezes of summer foretokened pleasant 

If Lundy Island can be seen clearly from a long distance, 
people on the shores of South Wales predict storms and rain. 
The same is said of Caldy Island and the Steep and Flat Holms. 



When these islands are enveloped in summer mist or haze, great 
heat may be expected. 

In the seventeenth century, people on the shores opposite 
Bardsey Island saw the shadowy forms of monks before wild 
winds and disaster at sea and sickness on land. The voice of 
an imprisoned monster was heard around Braich y Pwll before 
storm winds, and the spirits of the drowned wailed while the 
sea-horses galloped with them on the sands before a tempest 
around the Stack Rocks. Before a storm in some parts of 
Radnorshire they used to say, " The old men are quarrelling," 
or " The old men are beginning to quarrel." Radnorshire 
people had the reputation of being fond of quarrels and legal 
disputes. When a storm brooded and the waves made much 
noise around the Bishop's Rocks, Pembrokeshire, people said, 
" The Bishop and his clerks are praying." [C. Z).] 

Pentregethin, Pembrokeshire, had its cunning man, who pre- 
ferred selling foul winds if he could, so that wreckers might have 
a good time and pay him well. Dafydd Lloyd ap Llewellyn* 
was a confederate of the man of Pentregethin and a conjurer. 
David Lewis, of Eithin-duon, in the parish of Trelech Cannar, 
sold winds fair and foul, raised storms, was a conjurer, and 
could pass through keyholes at will. 

Jack o* Sheer-Gdr was an adept at these arts and practices, 
and plied his trade in Swansea in the days of old. Shoni Hoi 
frequented the Gower Coast, and many were the gifts he 
received from wreckers and smugglers in the eighteenth 

Many parts of the Principality had men and women who sold 
winds and weather to sailors. Modryb Sina (Aimt Sina) was 
one of the cunning women who could procure " a fair wind 
or foul " for sailors and others who went to her haunts, Laver- 
nock. Sully, and Cadoxton-juxta-Barry, in the eighteenth 
century. Ewythr Dewi (Uncle David) was prepared to do 
the same. He lived on Barry Island, and used to travel down 
to Swansea in the days before the great ports and trading places 
at Cardiff and Barry were known. Bill o' Breaksea accom- 
modated people in the same way at the little harbour of Aber- 
thaw, South Glamorgan. These kinds of people were to be met 
♦ William Howell, *' Cambrian Superstitions/' p. 86. 


all along the coastline of North and South Waies. Mari, of 
Lleyn, in the North, and Modryb Dinah, of Sker, in the South, 
were experts. [A, B., C. D.] 

Whichever way these men or women turned their hats and 
wished, therefrom the desired wind would blow. On the Gower 
peninsula whole families were adepts in the art of storm- 
raising. They were accustomed to tie up the foul wind and 
weather in an eggshell, from which the white and yolk had been 
set free by a slight perforation, or sucked carefully out. The 
latter was then stopped up with shoemaker's wax. At the 
evil moment the cunning woman or man dashed the egg- 
shells on a stone ; then the storm rushed out, and played havoc 
on land and sea. In some parts they used bags instead of eggs. 
Flogging the water with rods was customary with these storm- 
raisers, and it is said they beat until vapours arose which formed 
into a black cloud, producing deluges of rain and hail. In 
Carmarthenshire and Breconshire it was said that these 
cunning peasants used to eat, drink, and dance to the tune of 
the fiddle around three stones, by means of which they could 
produce wet weather or dry at will. If they set them upright, 
it would be dry ; if they laid them down, it would be very wet. 
They also were accustomed to put their head-coverings 
askew and wish for rain, or set them straight for dry weather. 
[C. D.] 

Light clouds, called " fleeces," " mares' tails," " horses' 
manes," and " streamers," indicated luck if they appeared 
directly above anybody's head. Gold-tinted or pink cloudlets 
floating or remaining stationary immediately over a person's 
head, house, or garden were, and are, regarded as omens of 
exceptional prosperity and good fortune, with imusual happi- 
ness during the following year. 

Among the mountains they say when a thick mist is rising, 
" Old Nick or Andras is boiling his supper," or *' washing his 
feet," or " brewing," or " making his fire," or " putting out 
his fire." Along the coasts the mists are variously called *' sea- 
maidens," " merry women," and '* hags of the night." The 
mist that rises from the River Cymmal is said to be the wraith 
of a beautiful woman who was unfaithful to her husband, and 
was turned into a mist for her sin. 


The morning fog is said to go a-fishing or a-hunting. When 
it fishes or is lowering, it is a sign of bad weather; when it 
hunts, or rises from the gromid, it is a sign of rain. 

The Welsh say when fogs come from the sea, the bees make 
a fine harvest ; when fogs come from the hills, the corn harvest 
will be good and plentiful. Fog in the spring, especially during 
May, indicates a very warm summer. 

When snow falls people say, *' The old woman is feathering 
her geese," or " Mother Goose is moulting,** or " The goose- 
motheris feathering hernest." If snow falls before December25, 
the people in some parts of the Principality say, " Mother Christ- 
mas is feathering her flock early.'* If the first fall of snow 
comes after that date, they say, " Mother Christmas is after 
the fair.** 

It was customary between 1823 and 1830 for aged people in 
Wales to foretell the weather by means of the shoulder-blade of 
a sheep or a pig, or by the breast-bone of a cooked goose, a 
duck, or the merry-thought of any bird. These bones were 
placed in the fire for a time, and then withdrawn. If the fire 
left many dark marks on the blades, the coming winter would 
be mild ; if more white streaks than dark appeared, it was a 
token of snow and hard frost. If the breast-bone or merry- 
thought of a bird turned red, a long-continued frost might be 
expected ; but if the bone remained white and transparent, the 
winter would be exceptionally mild. St. Martin*s Day was 
generally selected for this purpose. [C. D, and Family 

Before storms on the coast of Gower, in South Wales, the 
Lord and Lady of Rhosilly, seated in a coach drawn by four 
fiery and headless horses, are driven wildly along the sands 
near the Worm*s Head. 

In North Wales the warning voice of Helig is heard before 
boisterous weather and shipwrecks. 

In Glamorgan a phantom light is seen hovering along the 
Sker Rocks and the Tuskar Rocks before storms. 

Smoke ascends from the devil*s chimneys, three in number, 
in Kenfig Pool, the site of a submerged township and churches 
in Glamorgan, before wild gales and continued wet weather. 
This pool or lake ebbs and flows with the sea-tides, and at 


Newton Nottage, in the same district, St. John's Well is in- 
fluenced in a similar manner. 

In South Glamorgan the following rhyme is well known : 

** When Breaksea Point doth roar and cry, 
Gileston Lane is never dry.*' 

When ducks and geese flit to and fro restlessly, or are un- 
usually sportive, and frequently wash themselves in ponds and 
pools, rain may be expected. 

When fowls congregate outside the hen-house instead of going 
to roost, wet weather is at hand. 

When guinea-fowls clamour rain may be expected. 

Peacocks crying in shrill notes prophesy high winds and 

A severe winter is indicated by the early appearance of 

Fair weather is at hand when many quails are heard in the 

When rooks fly high, storm winds are following. If these 
birds stay at home, or return to their nests in the middle of the 
day, rain is coming ; but if they go far abroad, it is a token of 
fine, warm weather. 

When thrushes sing at sunset fair weather will follow. 

When three or four magpies fly together and utter harsh 
cries very windy weather may be expected. 

Pigeons always wash much before rain, and return home 

Larks flying high and singing long predict fine, warm weather. 

Swallows and water- wagtails skimming the roadways predict 
rain. When these birds keep high in the air warm weather 
may be expected. 

In South Wales the children say : 

** Every swallow slain 
Means a month of rain.** 

When seagulls remain on the shore fine weather is coming, 
but if they fly inland storms may be expected. This applies to 
all kinds of sea-birds. 

If wild geese leave the marshes for the sea, it is a token of 
very fair weather. 


If a strange parson comes into the parish rain will soon follow. 

A modem piece of folk-lore asserts that the " German band 
brings rain." 

Heavy white clouds are called " chancellor's wigs " in Wales, 
and they indicate high winds. 

If the cows and cattle lie down in the pastures rain may be 

Pigs carrying straws in their mouths foretoken rain. If they 
walk with their heads against the wind a strong gale may be 

When the cat washes her ears it is a sign of rain. If she turns 
her back to the fire a snowstorm can be expected. If the cats 
are frisky rain and wind are coming. If they stretch so that 
their paws meet it is a sign of prolonged bad weather. 

When sheep are restless and crows croak more than usual, 
wet weather is probable. 

An old verse runs thus : 

** Bwa Drindod y boran, ami gawodau ; 
Bwa Drindod prydnawn, tegwch a gawn," 

which, translated, means : 

" A rainbow in the morning 
Is the shepherd's warning ; 
A rainbow in the night 
Is the shepherd's delight.*' 

The following weather rhyme, translated by Edward 
Williams, better known as lolo Morganwg, is : 

" When the hoarse waves of Severn 

Are screaming aloud, 
And Penllyne's lofty castle's 

Involved in a cloud, 
If true the old proverb, 

A shower of rain 
Is brooding above. 

And will soon drench the plain." 

If you gather pansies on a fine day rain will soon follow. 
Lilac blossoms bend before rain ; red sunsets bring wind ; pale 
sunsets promise rain. 

In some parts of Wales the coast people say they see white 
hares before winter storms, and the howling of dogs foretokens 
a south-westerly gale. 


If the oak-leaves appear before those of the ash, the summer 
will be rainy. If the ash puts forth its leaves before the oak, 
the ensuing summer will be very dry and warm. 

Owls hooting in or very near a village prophesy snow. 
When cords snap rain follows. 

When the floors and stones " give," the Welsh housewife 
says very warm weather is coming. To " give '' means to look 
Crows croak before windy weather. 

When distant moimtains look nearer than usual rain may be 

An old man of Porthcawl, Glamorgan, said that when wild 
swans and geese congregated in large numbers among the sand- 
dunes along the shore, unusual storms could be expected. If the 
swans and geese went in flocks towards the north, a hard winter- 
would come ; but when these birds kept near the shore, the 
next summer and autumn would bring great heat. 

If the pimpernel, or " ploughman's weather-glass,'' closes in 
the daytime, it is regarded as a sign of rain. It is said in Wales 
that the pimpernel can forecast rain twenty-four hours in 
advance of a downpour. 

When aspen leaves " clatter " or make a great noise, rain may 
be soon expected, accompanied by wind, and sometimes by a 

If the leaves of the horse-chestnut spread like a fan, wide and 
broad, fine, warm weather is coming ; but long before rain the 
leaves begin to droop and point downward towards the earth. 

Before fine, warm weather the chickweed expands its leaves, 
but before rain each leaf is folded. 

When the down of the dandelion is fluffy, fair weather will 
come ; but if it becomes limp and contracted, rain may be 

Clover-leaves fold before rain, and expand some hours before 
great heat. 

If the cowslip stalks are short, a dry, warm summer is 
coming ; but when they are long, a wet season may be expected. 
French grass or clover is very rough to the touch before 
The stalk of the trefoil swells before rain. 


If marigolds do not open their petals before seven in the 
morning, the day will bring rain before many hours pass, or 
a thunderstorm may be expected. These flowers always close 
before storms. 

Sweetbriar has a fresher fragrance before rain. This is 
observed several hours in advance of a downpour. 

Lavender and roses emit their strongest perfimies before wet 

A weather rhyme, translated from the Welsh, rims thus : 

** Ladybird, ladybird, tell to me 
What the weather is going to be. 
If it is to be fair. 
Fly high in the air ; 
If it is to rain. 
Fall down again.** 

The children say the ladybird always falls down before rain, 
and flies away before wet weather. 

The country people say, if the blackbird and thrush sing 
before February they will cry before May. 

If birds flock early in the autumn, a very hard winter may 
be expected. 

If they separate early in spring and congregate again, the 
peasantry say, " Winter will rest on the lap of May.'* 

When the sea sounds heavy with ground swells, or the 
waves murmur, or a dull, deep roar is heard aroimd distant 
rocks, storms and gales may be expected. 

If it rains at the flow of the tide, the next morning will be 
fair for haymaking ; if it rains at the ebb-tide, the next days 
will be wet. 

Rain comes soon when fish bite readily and appear near the 
surface of the water. Before thunderstorms they remain in- 
active. When the wind is in the east, the fish bite little or not 
at all. This applies to trout and aU other fish. 

Cockles have much sand sticking to their shells before storms. 

Crabs burrow in the sand before strong gales. 

If eels are exceptionaJly lively, rain may be expected. 

When dolphins or porpoises swim to windward, foul weather 
will come within twenty-four hours. When dolphins or por- 
poises are seen tumbling up and down the Bristol Channel, 
exceptionally favourable weather may be expected. 


An old Welsh fisherman of Porthcawl, Glamorgan, said that 
when he was a boy the men were accustomed to set three nets 
in the sea, and closely watched the middle one. If into that, 
crabs, lobsters, and shell-fish came, bad weather and a poor 
season for fish woidd follow. If scaly fish entered the middle 
net, they could expect fair weather and a plentiful year. 

On the extreme west and north-west coast of Wales it was 
customary among fishermen at the beginning of the herring 
season to see if the first herring on board be a male or female. 
If it was a male, the next season would not be lucky ; if a 
female, the results would be very fortunate. 



THE whetstone of St. Tudno, near the ancient oratory 
on Great Orme's Head, was included among the thirteen 
curiosities of the Isle of Britain. It was said that if 
the sword of a brave man were sharpened on it, anybody 
woimded thereby would surely die ; but if the sword of a 
coward were sharpened on it, the blade would hurt, and not kill.* 

Another stone on Orme's Head is known as Cryd Tudno, or 
Tudno's Cradle. It is supposed to have been a rocking-stone, 
but has long since been dismounted. People said two cen- 
turies ago that if any mothers wanted their children to learn 
to walk quickly, they should put their babes to crawl three 
times in succession once a week aroimd the cradle of Tudno. 
[0. S.] 

On the summit and sides of Cefn Cam Cavall, a moimtain 
near Builth, in Breconshire, there are several cams scattered 
here and there. Among them is a stone resembling the im- 
pression of a dog's foot. The story connected with this is that 
if anybody carried the stone away for a day and a night, the 
next morning it would be foimd on the cam in the same place 
as usual. It is said that King Arthur, when himting the swine 
named Twrch Trwyth, Cavall, his favourite dog, impressed the 
stone with his footprint. The warrior king collected a heap of 
stones together, and on the top he placed the curiously marked 
one, and called the moimt Cam Cavall. It is still to be seen in 
the spot where it has stood for a thousand years or more.f- 

At Llandyfrydog, in Anglesea, there is a ciurious stone, 
resembling a humpbacked man. It is said that a man who had 

* ** The Mabinogion,*' p. 286 notes, t ibid., p. 292 notes, 



stolen several valuable articles from the parish church at last 
desired to obtain the Bible from a cupboard under the altar, 
where it was kept locked up when not in use. The sacred 
volume was contained in a special cover made of carved wood, 
inset with precious stones and gold. It took the man several 
hours in the night to secure the Bible, and, imder cover of the 
darkness, he ran away with it on his back. For this shameful 
theft he was turned into stone.* 

Moelfre Hill, Carnarvonshire, has three curious stones. The 
story goes that three women went to the top of the hill to 
winnow com on Sunday, and a neighbour rebuked them for 
desecrating the Lord's Day. The women laughed, and were 
turned into stone, which assumed the colours of the gowns 
they were wearing at the time. One was a dark and dull red, 
one was white, and the third was slate colour.f 

Duffryn, near St. Nicholas, in the Vale of Glamorgan, has 
Druidical stones scattered about in various places. Some of these 
have stories attached to them. Old people in the beginning of 
the nineteenth century said that once a year, on Midsummer 
Eve, the stones in Maes-y-felin Field whirled round three times, 
and made curtsies ; and if anybody went to them on Hallowe'en, 
and whispered a wish in good faith, it would be obtained. 
The field in which these stones stand was unprofitable, and 
people said the land was under a curse. The stones in Tinkin's 
Wood, some distance away, but belonging to the same Druidical 
series, were said to be women turned into stone for dancing 
on Simday. The great cromlech in the Duffrjm Woods was an 
imlucky place to sleep in on one of the *' three spirit nights," 
for the person who did so would die, go raving mad, or become 
a poet. These stones were haunted by the ghosts of Druids, 
who were in the habit of punishing wicked people by beating 
them, and were particularly hard in their treatment of 
drunkards. A man fond of drink slept there one night, and 
his experiences were terrible. He declared the Druids beat him 
first, and then whirled him up to the sky, from which he looked 
down and saw the moon and stars thousands of miles below 
him. The Druids held him suspended by his hair in the mid- 
heaven, imtil the first peep of day, and then let him drop down 
♦ Rev. Ellas Owen, '* Welsh Folk-lore/' p. 260. t Ibid., p. 230. 


to the Duffryn woods, where he was found in a great oak by 

Standing stones supposed to be of Druidicalor memorial origin 
are seen in Glamorgan near Cottrell, the seat of Mrs. Macintosh, 
wife of the Macintosh of Macintosh. The story about these 
stones is that some women had sworn falsely against an inno- 
cent man, who was put to death on the gallows on Bryn Owen 
Mountain, subsequently known as the Stallingdown. These 
women were turned into stones on their way home. [A.B. 
and 0. S.] 

The Sogranus Stone at St. DogmelFs, Pembrokeshire, was 
formerly used as a bridge. On the " three spirit nights " it 
was frequented by the devil, and at midnight in winter a white 
lady haimted it.* 

On a certain day in the year the dancing-stones of Stackpool 
were said to meet and come down to Sais's Ford to dance. If 
anybody witnessed this performance, it meant exceptional good 
luck to him. The witches held their revels and the devil 
played the flute occasionally aroimd the dancing-stones.* 

Carreg y Lleidr, near Llandyfrydog, Anglesea, has the 
Robber's Stone. A man once stole the church bells, and was 
turned into stone for his theft.* 

Three gigantic stones, called Tre Greienyn, are to be seen 
standing at the foot of Cader Idris. An old tradition says that 
these stones were three grains of sand which the gigantic 
asttonomer Idris Gawr shook out of his shoes before he ascended 
to his stone chair or observatory on the top of the mountain. 
On the summit of Cader Idris there is an excavation in the 
solid rock which resembles a couch or seat. It is said that if 
anybody remained in the seat of Idris for a night, he would be 
found in the morning either dead, raving mad, or endowed with 
remarkable genius. Mysterious lights are, it is said, to be seen 
on Cader Idris on the first night of each New Year.f 

About a mile from Cynwyl Gaio there is a boulder which has 
fallen from the moimtain. On this stone St, Cynwal once 
stood in ecstasy of thanksgiving and prayer. The river flowing 
below has worn hollows in the rock, and these are popularly 

* William Howell, " Cambrian Superstitions/' ppi 127, 128/ 129. 
t " Welsh Sketches," p. 15 (Cambro-Briion, g[82i). 


supposed to have been made by the saint when he knelt by the 
stream. Within the memory of old inhabitants the neigh- 
bourhood farmers used to lead their cattle there, lift the 
water from the hollows, and pour it over the animals to insure 
their good health and immunity from any epidemic during the 
ensuing twelve months. [0. 5.] 

The Goblin Stone of Cynwyl Gaio occupied a spot which few 
people cared to pass at night. In the seventeenth century a 
young man who had gone far in search of work came in the twi- 
light to a large stone surrounded with grass. The place looked 
tempting for a night's resting-place. After making a good but 
simple supper, the traveller placed his bundle containing 
clothes on the grass in shelter of the stone. For a time he 
slept soundly, but about midnight he was awakened by 
somebody pinching his arms and ears and pricking his 
nose. He got up, and, looking around in the starlight, 
saw a goblin sitting on the stone, with many others around 
him. The man tried to runaway, but the master goblin 
would not permit him, and at his command his minions inter- 
laced their grotesque arms around him and prevented him 
moving. They tweaked his ears and nose, pinched him, gave 
him pokes in his ribs, and tormented him all through the 
night in every conceivable manner. He sat down to rest and 
wait for the dawn, and in the meantime the goblins screamed 
and laughed and shrieked in his ears until he was nearly mad. 
When the first streak of morning light appeared, the goblins 
vanished. The stranger got up in the dawn, and when he went 
onward he met some workmen, to whom he related his adven- 
ture. They said he had slept under the Goblin Stone. [0. S. 
and C. Z).] 

At Trelyfan, in Pembrokeshire, is St. Brynach's Stone. It 
is the shaft of a cross about ten feet high, with interlaced orna- 
mentation. Pembrokeshire people say that the cuckoo sounds 
its first note when perched there on April 7, the day of St. 
Brynach. George Owen, in his '' Description of Pembroke- 
shire,*' says : " The parish priest of this church would not begin 
Mass till this bird, called the ' citizens' Ambassador,' had first 
appeared, and began his note on a stone called St. Brynach's 
Stone, standing upright in the churchyard. . . . One year, 


staying away very long, and the people expecting the cuckoo, 
the bird came at last, and, lighting on the said stone, its accus- 
tomed preaching-place, and being scarce able to once sound his 
note, presently fell dead/* 

A stone in Llowes Churchyard, in Radnorshire, has a story 
attached to it. Maud of Hay, the wife of William de Breos or 
Bruce, Lord of Brecknock and Abergavenny, was the daughter 
of Fitz-Walter, Earl of Hereford. The story goes that she 
built the castle of Hay in Breconshire in a single night, and 
without assistance. Owing to her occult powers, gigantic 
stature, and mysterious deeds, people thought she could accom- 
plish any feat, however difficult. In the folk-tales and nursery 
stories of Wales she is known as Mol Walbee, a corruption of 
her father's surname, Waleri. While carrying stones in her 
apron for the purpose of building Hay Castle, a *' pebble " of 
about nine feet long fell into her shoe. At first she did not heed 
the discomfort, but by-and-by, finding it troublesome, she indig- 
nantly threw it over the Wye into Llowes Churchyard, in Radnor- 
shire, about three miles away. It remains there at present.* 

Another time, when she was busy with incantations at mid- 
night, she was interrupted by a monk, who besought her to 
cease her xmholy work. Mol Walbee caught him up in her 
arms, and ran to the banks of the Wye, wherefrom she threw 
him into the middle of the river ; and as the man could not swim, 
he was borne away down the river and drowned. People used 
to say that at midnight a wailing was heard on the Wye, and a 
gurgling sound followed it. These were attributed to the 
struggles of Mol Walbee's victim. [O. S.] 

The fate of Mol Walbee used to be recited in the nurseries 
and by the firesides of Wales. During the feuds between 
King John and her husband, Maud of Hay presented his Queen 
with four hundred kine and a bull, all milk-white with pink 
ears. When her husband failed to make good his payments 
for Munster and Limerick, John wanted her children as 
hostages. She promptly said she could not and would not 
trust her offspring to a man who had murdered his own nephew. 
John then forcibly gained possession of Maud and her children, 
but ultimately accepted a ransom. Several times she broke 

* Hoare, " Giraldus/' vol. i., p. 91. 



her bargain with the King. In the meantime her husband had 
made good his escape into France. By-and-by John again 
captured Maud and her children, and they were imprisoned 
in Bristol, from whence they were taken to Windsor. There 
a few small rooms isolated from the other part of the castle 
were placed for their use. The sad story goes that hundreds 
of masons were employed to build around her apartments, 
and rapidly a tower was in formation. Maud's incantations 
and spells were unavailing against the masonry, and her 
gigantic powers were no good. 

Higher and higher rose the tower, and when the pangs of hunger 
attacked the pitiful and spirited woman and her children, she 
cried and stormed, and besought the King for mercy. But 
he would not listen. Maud and her children were actually 
buried alive in the tower.* 

Lechlaver, the '' talking-stone '' of St. David's, was a marble 
slab where the bridge over the brook now stands. Once, 
when a corpse was carried over it, the stone broke into speech, 
and cracked the coffin. 

Not far from Aber, and about two miles and a half from 
Llanfairfechan, in one of the wildest and most lonely valleys in 
North Wales, is the celebrated Arrow Stone, upon which the 
chieftains of old sharpened their battle-axes and other imple- 
ments of war. Labourers going home from field work and 
people living near the valley declared that if ever the sound 
of any instrument being sharpened upon the stone reached them, 
it was an omen of bad luck to the hearer, and foretokened an 
epidemic in the country, or some disaster in Wales. 

Arthur's Stone, in Gower, is in a solitary spot, from which 
a fine view of land and sea can be obtained. It is said that 
when King Arthur was on his way to the Battle of Camlan, he 
felt a pebble in his shoe. As it lamed him, he took off his shoe 
and flung the pebble as far as he could, and it fell on Cefn-y- 
Bryn, exactly on the stone where it is still seen, and 
quite seven miles from the spot where King Arthur stood. f 
At midnight and full moon maidens from Swansea and district 
used to deposit on the stone a cake made of barley-meal 

* Rees, " South Wales/' pp. 25-30. 

t William Howell, ** Cambrian Superstitions/* p. loi. 


and honey wetted with milk and well kneaded. Then, on 
hands and knees, the girls had to crawl three times aromid the 
stone. This was done to test the fidelity of their lovers. If 
the young men were faithful to their sweethearts, they would 
make their appearance. If they did not come, the girls re- 
garded it as a token of their fickleness, or intention never to 
marry them. 

Beneath this stone is a spring which is said to flow with the 
ebb and flow of the tide. It is called Ffynon Fair, or Our 
Lady's Well. The water therefrom was lifted in the palm, 
of the hand while the person who drank it wished. This is 
situated on Cefn-y-Bryn, near Reynoldstone, Gower. 

Arthur's Quoit, at Lligwy, near Moelfre, in Anglesea, is one 
of the stones of a cromlech once very important, and to it 
curious stories were formerly attached. A fisherman going 
down to the sea was overtaken by a storm, and halted to shelter 
beside Arthur's Quoit. When the rain was over, he looked 
towards the sea, and felt sure that somebody was struggling 
in the water. He hastened to the shore, and then discovered 
that a woman with very long dark hair was endeavouring to 
swim to land ; but the ground swell was very strong, and each 
attempt proved unavailing. The fisherman, fearless of the 
sea, sprang in, and bore the swimmer to the shore, only just 
to escape a dangerous roller. The man observed that the 
woman was beautifully robed in white, and had jewelled 
bracelets on her arms. After squeezing the water out of her 
garments, she asked him to assist her to the " huge stone/* 
meaning Arthur's Quoit. He did so, and while she sat to rest 
against the stone, he noticed that she was very beautiful and 
youthful. The man was about to ask her how she came to 
be in such peril, but she anticipated his question with a harsh 
voice, by no means in keeping with her beauty. " Ha, ha !'* 
she cried. " If I had been swimming in my usual raiment, 
you would have allowed me to sink. I am a witch, and was 
thrown off a ship in Lligwy Bay; but I disguised myself, 
and was rescued." The man shrank back in terror, fearing 
the woman would bewitch him. " Don't be frightened," said 
the witch ; " one good turn deserves another. Here, take 
this." In the palm of her hand she held a small ball. 



" It is for you/' she said, " and as long as you keep it concealed 
in a secret place where nobody can find it, good luck will be 
yours. Once a year you naust take it out of hiding and dip 
it in the sea, then safely return it to its place of concealment. 
But remember, if it is lost, misfortune will foUow." The 
fisherman took the ball and thanked the witch, who gravely 
said : " That ball contains a snake-skin.'' Then she vanished 
mysteriously. But an hour later he saw her leaping from rock 
to rock in Lligwy Bay, where a boat was waiting for her, and 
in it she sailed away. Returning to Arthur's Quoit, the fisher- 
man thought he could do no better than conceal the baU in 
a deep hole which he dug close beside the great stone which 
was reputed to be haunted, and accordingly avoided. He 
did this, and once a year he took it from concealment and 
dipped it in the sea. The baU was carefully preserved, and 
the family had remarkable runs of luck. But one evening 
when the fisherman went to look for the ball, it was nowhere 
to be found. He searched for many days, but without avail, 
and at last gave up his search as hopeless. Somebody evidently 
discovered his secret, and had stolen the precious ball. Seven 
years passed, during which time misfortune pursued the fisher- 
man. At the end of that period a dying neighbour confessed 
to the theft of the baU, and restored it to its lawful owner. 
Good luck was at once restored to the family. When the 
fisherman died, he bequeathed it to his eldest son, who carefully 
preserved it. In the first half of the nineteenth century the 
fisherman's eldest son, accompanied by his only brother, started 
for Australia, where they eventually made large fortunes. A 
descendant in the female line of the old fisherman considered 
the ball one of her most precious treasures, and carefully pre- 
served it in her far-away home in India. It was last heard of 
about forty years ago. [A. B. and 0. S.] 

In the parish church of Llantwit Major, Glamorgan, there 
is a peculiar stone. It was formerly part of a shrine of the 
Madonna, and has recently been replaced in its original position 
at the base of a very beautiful niche in the church, representing 
a finely carved Jesse-tree. When this stone was embedded in 
the wall of the ruined Lady Chapel, a folk-story was attached 
to it. People said the recumbent figure was that of a 


woman who had swallowed a cherry-stone, and after her death 
a tree grew out of her body, and formed branches. Children 
always pointed out this stone to their friends from a distance, 
saying it was the wonderful woman who once had a tree 
growing out of her body. 

The Druids' Circle, which is about a mile distant from the 
Green Gorge on Penmaenmawr, contains two stones among 
other Druidical remains. The Deity Stone was formerly held 
in considerable awe. An old story told by a North Welshman 
was to the effect that if anybody used profane language near 
it, the stone would bend its head and smite the offending 
person. A man from South Wales played cards with some 
friends beside this stone on a Sunday, and when the men re- 
turned to the village with cuts about their heads, the people 
knew the Deity Stone had smitten them, though they would 
not admit having had punishment. A notorious blasphemer 
who came from Merionethshire laughed to scorn the story of 
this stone. One night he went to the Druids' Circle alone 
and at a very late hour, and shouted words of blasphemy so 
loud that his voice could be heard ringing down the Green Gorge. 
People shuddered as they heard him. The sounds ceased, and 
the listeners ran away in sheer fright. In the morning the 
blasphemer's corpse was found in a terribly battered condition 
at the base of the Deity Stone. [A, B. and Family Collection.] 

Immediately opposite the last-named relic is the Stone of 
Sacrifice, on the top of which there is a cavity large enough to 
hold a full-grown child. There was an old behef that an 
infant placed in this cavity for a few minutes during the 
first month of its life would be lucky. Rain-water conveyed 
from the cavity was proof against witches if sprinkled on the 
threshold. Sometimes terrible cries were heard issuing from 
the Stone of Sacrifice, and frequently moanings, sobbings, and 
wailings sounded above the wind on stormy nights. It was 
stated that the witches once held a revel outside the Druidical 
circle, and when the orgies were at their height, stem male- 
dictions were heard coming from this stone, and so frightened 
were the weird women that two of them died suddenly, and 
one went raving mad. {A, B.] 

Marcross, in the Vale of Glamorgan, had a stone about which 


the old people told more than one story. In the eighteenth 
century they said that once a year a stranger used to be seen 
near the stone. Nobody knew from whence he came nor 
whither he went. One night a villager who had long made 
up his mind to accost the stranger did so. *' In the name of 
God, what do you want ?*' asked the villager. Then, in low, 
grave tones the stranger said : *' Since you ask me in God's 
name, I will teU you what I want. I am looking for the bones 
of my brother, and cannot rest until they are found. But 
I am a spirit, and I cannot dig. Will you help me ?'' The 
villager said he would. Silently he went for a pick and shovel, 
and was told to dig beside the stone. This he did carefully 
in the summer night, when everybody was in bed and asleep. 
After some hard work the man came upon human remains, 
which were closely examined by the stranger, who said : 
" Thank God ! They are his !'' He then asked the villager 
to go with him and bury them in the parish churchyard. The 
man did so, and when all was over the stranger said : " He was 
a good man and brave, and fought valiantly for his Queen and 
country against the Spanish Armada V Then he disappeared, 
never to return. In the morning the stone had fallen. There 
is a local tradition to the effect that portions of the woodwork 
in Marcross Church are remains of one of the ships of the Great 
Armada which was wrecked under Nash Point. [C. D. and 
Family Collection!] 

In Donovan's " Descriptive Excursions in South Wales,'* 
1805, an account is given of a very curious stone. On the eve 
of Corpus Christi Donovan saw a man lying bare on Sir John 
Colmer's gravestone at Christ Church, Caerleon. This stone 
was supposed to perform miraculous cures. People witnessed 
this scene. The man passed the night of Wednesday and 
Thursday after Trinity Sunday on the stone, and when he got 
up he was cured. 

Near Dolacauthi,the seat of Sir Jamesand Lady Hills-Johnes, 
in Carmarthenshire, there is a hill-top which is supposed to 
have been scooped out by the Romans in search for gold. Into 
this cavernous place there are tunnels, which were evidently 
" bored at a very remote period.'* In one of these, five saints 
are said to sleep. They are known as the Five Sleepers. 


These were the five sons bom at one birth of Cynyr F^rfdrwch, 
and brother of Cai, who was sewer to King Arthur. Their 
great-uncle was Caswallon Lawhir, who drove the Irish out of 
Mona. In a storm of thunder and Ughtning the five brothers 
took refuge in this spot. They laid their heads on a stone 
pillar and fell asleep. It is said that they will not awake from 
their sleep until King Arthur reappears, or a genuine and faith- 
ful apostolic bishop occupies the throne of St. David. Old 
inhabitants of the neighbourhood used to assert that the five 
brothers have worn the stone into hollows with the pressure of 
their heads, and they have turned it three times, so that each 
side is marked by depressions. The first pillow they used was 
cast away, and it was set up near a great tumulus at the 
entrance to the mines, which is close to the grounds of 
Dolacauthi. Then the sleepers took up a new stone pillow. 
The hollows in the stone are mortars in which the quartz was 
ground by the Romans to obtain the particles of gold. Gwen 
of Dolacauthi, led by the devil, paid a visit to the five sleepers. 
But, like the uninvited guest, she was not welcomed. The 
sleepers punished her by keeping her imprisoned for ever in the 
cave. But they still allow her out when storm winds and rain 
are abroad; then her vaporous form may be seen sailing around 
the old gold-mine. Her sobs and moans are heard far and near, 
and when the storm passes she has to return to the Five 
Sleepers. [0. S.] 

The story of Craig-y-Dinas, in the Vale of Neath, is well 
known. A version of it appears in " Glimpses of Welsh Life and 
Character,** published by Mr. John Hogg, London. A Welsh 
drover accustomed to attend Barnet ^Fair stood to rest on 
London Bridge. He leaned on his strong hazel-stick, similar 
to those used by drovers in the present day. He was very tired 
after the long march from Wales, and presently left the bridge 
for an eating-house on the other side of the Thames. There he 
was joined by a queer-looking stranger, who asked where he got 
his stick. The drover replied that it grew npar his home. The 
stranger then said the stick must have grown on a spot where 
treasures of metal, gold, and silver could be found. He offered 
to make the drover the master of much treasure if he would 
take him to the spot where the stick grew. To this the Welsh- 


man agreed, and the next morning they started for Wales. In 
the morning after their arrival at the drover's home the stranger 
accompanied his host to the grassy hollow where the hazel grew 
from which the long stick had been cut. The stranger then 
said that in a dream he had seen the hollow before, and directed 
tKe drover to get a spade and pick, and dig as he directed. The 
Welshman at once began to dig up the roots of the hazel, and 
after digging for some time the men discovered a very broad 
and flat stone. Underneath the stone there was a flight of 
broken steps, where the men descended, and soon reached a long 
corridor, from the roof of which a huge bell was suspended. 
The stranger warned the drover never to touch the bell, for the 
consequences would be dreadful. Then they went on until a 
vast cavern was reached. It was filled with warriors in 
shining armour, with shields beside them and swords un- 
sheathed. In the midst of these warriors a circle of twelve 
knights surrounded a King, and all the men were asleep. The 
stranger told the drover that these warriors were King Arthur 
and his knights and squires. They were waiting there until the 
Black Eagle and the Golden Eagle should go to war. The 
clamour of the eagle warfare would make the earth tremble, 
and cause the bell to ring so loudly that the warriors would 
awaken, and go forth with King Arthur to destroy all the 
enemies of the Cymry, and establish the King's rule again in 
Britain. But terrible would be the results if a false alarm ever 
rang. In the midst of the space where the King slept were 
several heaps of gold, silver, and precious stones. The stranger 
told the drover that he was at liberty to take as much as he 
could carry from one heap at a time, but the precious metals and 
stones were not to be mixed. 

The drover did as he was bidden, and when the stranger 
ascended, he said : " Beware you never touch the bell. But if 
by chance you do, one of the sleepers will lift his head, and 
ask, ' Is it day ?' and in peril of your life you must answer, ' It 
is not day ; sleep thou on.' " 

The stranger went away, and the drover never saw him 

Many times in the next few years the drover visited the 
cavern and brought away treasure, so that he became ex- 


ceedingly rich. Twice he chanced to touch the magic bell, and 
one of the warriors on each occasion asked " Is it day ?" and 
the drover answered, " It is not day ; sleep thou on." One day 
he eagerly endeavoured to carry away a larger quantity of 
treasure than usual, and accidentally touched the bell. .One of 
the warriors cried out, " Is it day ?'* Too excited in his greed 
for gain, the drover forgot to reply, whereupon, quick and 
angrily, the warriors took the treasure away from the man. 
Then they dragged and beat him, and finally threw him out 
of the cavern, triumphantly drawing the stone over the 
entrance. The drover never recovered from the effects of the 
beating, and although he often went to Craig-y-Dinas to search 
for the spot where the stone covered the entrance to the cavern, 
he never found it. 

In a cavern near Carrig Cennin Castle, Carmarthenshire, Sir 
John Goch, known also as Owen the Red Hand, is doomed to 
sleep for a thousand years. He has fifty-one comrades with 
him, and when he awakens there will be peace all over the 

A similar story is told of Owen of Cymru (Owen de Galles). 
This hero is not dead, but sleeps in a cavern far from his native 
land, on the banks of the Gironde. There he will remain with 
his captains and soldiers around him, waiting imtil a great bell 
shall ring to summon him to fight again for the honour of 

Owen Glyndwr is supposed to be sleeping in a great cavern, 
with all his men in armour, their spears resting against their 
shoulders, and their swords close at hand. There they wait 
until the bell rings that shall call them out to march forth and 
fight for the needs of their native land. 

Merlin's Cave is in Merlin's Hill, above the secluded village 
of Abergwilli, near Carmarthen. Old stories state that Merlin 
is held there in bonds of enchantment by Nimue- Vivien, and 
it was firmly believed in the eighteenth century that the cele- 
brated magician could be heard at certain seasons of the year 
bewailing his folly in allowing a woman to learn his secret spell. 

In Carmarthen, where the magician was bom, MerUn's Tree 

* William Howell, "Cambrian Superstitions/' pp. 104, 105. 
t Froissart. 


stood. It was struck by lightning many years ago, and very 
soon withered. An old Welsh folk-rhyme runs as follows : 

" When Merlin's Tree shall tumble down, 
Woe shall betide Carmarthen town !" 

' Among the mountains called The Rivals in North Wales 
is the beetling and furrowed Craig Ddu, with its almost black 
rocky surface and inaccessible sides rising sheer against the sky. 
In the eighteenth century people said that the apparition of an 
old man with long white hair and flowing beard used formerly 
to be seen wandering down the valley, and pausing to mutter 
unknown words beside the Craig Ddu. Sounds of strange music 
were heard, and magic signs were made by the old man. If 
anybody fell asleep in the shadow of Craig Ddu he would sleep 
for ever, and be carried away by unseen hands, so that his rest- 
ing-place could not be known. [A. B,] 

Tresillian Cave is a short distance to the east of St. Donat's, 
Glamorgan, and was once the scene of a romantic wedding. 

Cecil Powel, heiress of Llandow, was a high-spirited girl with 
many admirers. Among them was Thomas Picton, of Poyston, 
Pembrokeshire, who was determined, if possible, to win the 
wilful damsel. At last she consented to be married in the cave. 
She cleverly arranged a bogus ceremony to defeat the bride- 
groom, and dissolve the marriage as soon as the fun was over. 
A masked man did duty as a clergyman, and although the 
wedding party numbered many friends of the bridegroom, the 
wilful bride gaily pronounced the ceremony to be invahd. 
Whereupon the bridegroom produced the special licence, and 
the officiating clergyman removed his mask, reveahng the 
features of the Rev. Edward Powel, Rector of Llandow, and 
father of the bride, who had bribed the hired man to let him 
take his place. This bride and bridegroom*s wedded life proved, 
contrary to expectations, to be exceedingly happy. Thomas 
Picton and his beautiful wife Cecil became the father and 
mother of General Sir Thomas Picton, one of the most renowned 
of the British officers in the Peninsular War. He fought and 
feU at Quatre-Bras. 

At the mouth of this cavern it is said that one Peter the 
Pirate, who had been a terror to the country-side, was buried in 
the long ago. The people bound him hands and feet, and 


buried him alive in a deep grave of sand, on which they piled 
rocks and stones. It was formerly asserted that if you listened 
on New Year's Eve you could hear Peter the Pirate raving for 
freedom, and sometimes when high tides filled the cave he might 
be heard moaning and groaning. This used to be told by the 
old people who cherished the folk-stories of the neighbourhood. 

This cavern bears the name of the early British Christian 
who was slain by the pagans : Tre — the home of Sillian ; hence 
Tresillian. In former times there was an ancient chapelry near 
this spot. 

There is a cave or underground passage leading from Morda 
to Chirk. Castle, North Wales. If anybody went near the 
entrance of this cavern, he would be mysteriously drawn in and 
never seen again. People were afraid of it, and in the course 
of time the entrance became overgrown with briars and 
brambles and tall rank grasses. A fox once tried to hide there, 
but became so greatly alarmed by what he saw that his hair 
stood on end, and he ran wildly into the middle of the pack of 
hounds, not one of which would touch him because he smelt so 
strongly of brimstone ! 

lolo ap Hugh, a merry wandering minstrel, was determined 
to solve the mystery of the cave. On Hallowe'en, one of the 
" three spirit nights," lolo provided himself with a basket of 
provisions, including a good supply of bread and cheese, seven 
pounds of candles, and his beloved fiddle. People advised 
him not to go, but away he went. Like the fox, poor lolo was 
drawn into the cave by mysterious hands, and never was seen 
again. For many weeks people smelt " brimstone," and some 
said that " the devil was having a fine feast over ppor lolo 
ap Hugh !" 

Long years afterwards, on Hallowe'en, a shepherd, hurrying 
past the mouth of the cave, suddenly heard a burst of wild 
music. He looked towards the cave, and who should he see but 
lolo ap Hugh, in body as young as ever, fiddling and capering in 
fantastic fashion to the tune^of his own fiddle.^ But his head 
was quite loose, as if it would fall off, and his face wore an 
expression of indescribable agony. A lighted lantern suspended 
by a rope hung between his shoulders, and the head and horns 
of a goat were fastened upon his breast, and all the time he 


danced right merrily. The shepherd gazed for some time, 
fascinated by the music, until at length the fiddler was drawn 
back by some mysterious power into the cave. Two years later 
the shepherd went to church early on Christmas morning when 
the clerk was lighting the candles. He heard strange sounds of 
music passing through the church. It seemed as if the melody 
ascended from under the flooring or from a crypt, and passed 
on and out into the snowy air, then soaring sweetly upward. 
The shepherd recognized the melody as that played by lolo ap 
Hugh when he revisited the earth after his absence in the 
under- world. He was able to whistle the tune to the vicar, who 
transposed it into music. lolo never returned, but his melody 
lives in the well-known Welsh air entitled " Ffarwel Ned 

Another version of the story contains the additional infor- 
mation that the fiddle of Ned Pugh became a bugle, and the 
musician undertook the duties of chief huntsman to Gwyn ap 
Nudd. In this tale he is described as wandering every Hallow- 
e'en and other spirit nights in many places. Sometimes he 
is below Plinlimmon, occasionally among the Black Mountains,* 
and there was a story about him among the wild places around 
Aberdare* There he is heard cheering the Cwn Annwn, 
blowing his bugle, and shouting as he goes. [C. D. and Family 

Similar stories are told of other caverns. The Black Cave of 
Cricceth is supposed to conceal musicians who entered and lost 
their way back. They played on certain nights, and the 
people heard them. At Braich-y-Bidi and Braich-y-Cornor the 
mysterious pipers and horn-blowers send forth wild music into 
the night. The tunes they play are known as " Ffarwel Dic-y- 
Pibyd " (Dick the Piper's Farewell) and '' Ffarwel Dwm Bach " 
(Little Tom's Farewell).* 

♦ Cambrian Quarterly, 1829, vol. i. ; Rhys, '* Celtic Folk-lore," 
pp. 210, 211. 



CASTELL COCH, or the Red Castle, has many stories 
attached to it. In the twelfth century it was the strong- 
hold of Ivor the Little, Lord of Morlais, who boasted 
that his twelve hundred men were capable of defeating any 
twelve thousand in the then known world. 

Robert of Gloucester, keeping a keen eye upon Robert of 
Normandy, at that time occupied Cardiff Castle. The descent 
of Ivor the Little upon Cardiff, and the capture of the Earl of 
Gloucester, are matters of history. f 

In the traditionary lore connected with the castle is the story 
of the great eagles placed there, it is said, by Ivor the Little, 
to protect a huge iron chest filled with treasure, including 
precious stones. 

The old story goes that down in a deep subterranean vault 
at the head of a passage leading to Cardiff Castle, several miles 
away, there is a vast cavern, containing the iron chest of Ivor 
the Little. To this chest three huge eagles are chained, but 
with sufficient length of links to permit the gigantic birds to 
seek relaxation by returning as far as the vault outside the 
cave. These fierce birds are described as having dark grey 
plumage. Their eyes are large and brilliantly red, with a light 
that flashes like fiendish lightning through the gloom of the 
cavern. In certain seasons of the year, chiefly between October 
and March, these birds make fearful commotion in their retreat. 
They scream and shriek, causing terror to the dwellers in the 
coimtry-side around the castle. In ages gone by men sought 
to destroy the eagles, but failed. During the seventeenth 
century a search-party, armed from head to feet, explored the 



vault and cavern, but were beaten by the birds, and gladly 
made their escape. Another party took the precaution to 
have their weapons blessed by a priest, while a more devout 
company sought the aid of a holy friar who had never tasted 
wine or strong drink; but they were treated in the same 
'ferocious manner as former explorers. 

In the eighteenth century a party of brave and fearless men, 
who had seen active service abroad, started on an expedition 
to the cavern. They were armed with pistols and cutlasses ; 
but although they fired and slashed away for hours, the eagles 
with the great red eyes beat the men unmercifully, so that they 
were glad to retreat. And as the men left the gloomy vault, 
the eagles screamed in exultation, while the flapping of their 
wings sounded like distant thunder. 

It was said that those who cared to seek might find the 
chained eagles of Ivor the Little guarding the huge iron chest 
in the cavern of the Red Castle, but to this day human power 
has been unable to dislodge them. A century ago aged people 
declared that their forefathers believed the three gigantic 
eagles intended guarding their chieftain's treasure until Ivor 
the Little could come back to his own again, with his brave 
twelve hundred men of Glamorgan. 

These gigantic eagles appear in another story connected with 
Castell Coch. 

Early in the eighteenth century an aged gamekeeper and 
his wife occupied a few rooms in the castle. At first they 
foimd the place very quiet and peaceful, but afterwards they 
were disturbed by strange noises and unearthly sounds, which 
they attributed to rats and night birds. Last of all they heard 
whisperings and mutterings in the night. The woman was 
disturbed in her sleep by a curious tapping. She quickly 
looked aroimd, and saw, not far from her bedside, a venerable 
gentleman in a full dress suit of Charles I.'s reign. His face 
was deadly pale, and his countenance looked worn with sorrow. 
He retreated to the door and appeared to be lost in shadows. 
When the woman went to the door she found it locked. She 
did not tell her husband, but later on, when relating their ex- 
periences, the latter said he had frequently seen the apparition 
of the old gentleman in the turret garden and elsewhere. 


There is a tradition of a Royalist who secreted plate, jewels, 
and money in an iron chest somewhere in Castell Coch. He 
was killed in the Civil Wars, but his spirit form wandered to 
the spot where the treasure was deposited. People searched 
for the Royalist's precious hoard, but were beaten back by the 
three gigantic eagles of Castell Coch. [0. 5. and C, Z).] 

The River Ogmore appears to have been a favourite depository 
of all kinds of treasure. In the folk-stories of the Vale of 
Glamorgan it is recorded that hoarders of money, or people 
who secreted any precious stones or metals, even if only a 
piece of old iron, never rest if they die while the treasure re- 
mains hidden. In order to give the spirit rest, the treasure 
must be taken by a " living human hand " and thrown into 
the River Ogmore " with the stream." If thrown against it, 
the unfortunate person would be terribly tormented ever after. 

It is strange, but true, that the other rivers and streams of 
the Vale were never to be recipients of treasure, which must 
be thrown into the Ogmore, and that only. The following 
stories out of several of the kind indicate the popularity of the 

Barbara,* the wife of Edward, the tailor of Llantwit Major, 
was a hale and hearty woman, until a secret pressed sorely 
upon her mind. For a long time after her husband's mother's 
death she kept as a prof oimd secret the fact that the old woman 
had entrusted her with a bag of money, which was to be divided 
equally between several members of the family. Barbara 
decided to keep this for her own use. But the spirit of MoUans, 
as the old woman was called, would not give her peace. By- 
and-by Barbara became very miserable and emaciated, and 
seemed to be gradually pining away. For the spirit teased and 
pinched her in the night, and would not allow her to sleep 
because she persistently refused to take the hoard and honestly 
divide it, or throw it into the Ogmore. Barbara selfishly con- 
sented to the latter course. The spirit then led her out of the 
house, and wafted her so high in the air that she saw the 
church loft and all the houses far below her. In her flurry 
she threw the bag of money up the stream, instead of down 
with it, whereupon the spirit, in a great rage, and with a savage 
* ** The Vale of Glamorgan," p. 300. 


look, tossed her into a whirlwind. One evening the bellringers 
found her in a sad plight and in a fainting condition near the 
church lane. She was wet and bedraggled, and her hair was 
filled with sand. The whirlwind bewildered her so much that 
she could not remember how or when she came home. From 
the moment after her return Barbara never had peace. Her 
husband, a very good and truthful man, declared that super- 
natural noises and knockings were always heard in the house, 
and the garden was haunted because of Barbara's folly. People 
are living to-day who said Barbara's children were " ghost- 
walked,'' or ghost-ridden. [Family Collection.'] 

An aged woman still living says that Barbara invariably 
refused to open the door when, as she said, the spirit of her 
mother-in-law knocked. But the spirit assumed the shape 
of a crow, and entered by means of an open window or down 
the chimney. When my informant was about ten years of age, 
she remembered being in Barbara's house when a crow chanced 
to fly in through the window. Barbara screamed with terror 
while the crow flapped its wings around her head and beat 
her immercifully. Neighbours, hearing the commotion, entered 
from the back of the house and offered to kill the bird, but 
Barbara said : " Don't, don't ! if you kill the crow you'll kill 
my mother-in-law, and I shall go to perdition." When the 
front-door was opened the crow flew out. 

The following story was given me by the grand-daughter, 
still living, of one who took part in the religious service held in 
the miser's house in St. Donat's, Glamorgan. 

A middle-aged woman, who for many years had been house- 
keeper to a " money-hoarder," could not have peace or rest 
after the man's death. She appealed to the Wesleyan Metho- 
dists, asking them to hold a prayer-meeting in the house. In 
the midst of a fervent prayer the woman cried out : *' There 
he is ! There he is !" The people stared, but saw nothing. 
They told the woman to ask in the Holy Name what the spirit 
wanted. She did so, but they could not hear any response. 
Then they heard the woman asking : *' Where is it ?" She 
inmiediately went to the fireplace, stretched her arm up the 
chimney, and brought down from a secret nook what appeared 
to be a bag of money. The woman then turned quickly roimd, 


and cried : " Let me go ! Let me go !" She slipped out of 
the house " in a twinkling." Yotmg men, following her, saw 
her leaping over the stile in the moonlight, and whisking rapidly 
away out of sight. Later on the woman returned, tired and 
bespattered with wet sand. She said the spirit carried her 
to the Ogmore River, and held her in mid-air over it, until she 
had thrown the bag of money with the stream. He then 
whisked her home again. 

In a pasture-field near the ruins of a very ancient house at 
Brincethin, Glamorgan, there was a well of clear spring water. 
A girl going to this spot was suddenly surrounded by forked 
lightning, which made her run home terrified. Next evening 
, the same thing happened. This time the girl looked across 
the well, and among the wild-rose bushes she saw a lady dressed 
in a curiously antique costume with high-heeled " peaked 
shoes ** and immense silver buckles. The girl mustered up 
courage to address the spirit in the holy name, and ask what 
was desired. The lady then told her to remove a hoard of 
money and precious stones contained in a bag that was con- 
cealed imder the hearthstone of a ruined house near at hand. 
The girl told her friends of this,, and they helped her to find 
the treasure. The lady requested the girl to throw the bag 
into the River Ogmore. It was to be sent with the stream, 
and not against it. She did so, and never afterwards saw the 

An old inhabitant of Newton Nottage, near Porthcawl, said 
that when he was a boy he remembered people talking about 
a tall man dressed in a costume of a century or more previously. 
For some time this figure was seen pointing to one of the sand- 
hills that abound in this district. After several months had 
passed, one of the inhabitants of the village ventured to address 
the stranger in the Holy Name, and asked what he wanted. The 
man then desired the person who accosted him to dig into 
one of the mounds close by, where gold and jewels would be 
found. When the treasure was discovered, it was to be taken 
to the Ogmore River, and thrown with the stream. This 
was done, and the apparition never again appeared. 

Where the Rivers Rhondda and Taff meet and mingle their 
waters at Pontypridd, there is a spot which in the days of old 



was much frequented by treasure-throwers from various parts 
of the district. These people were bidden by supernatural 
strangers to dig for, and carry, hoards from the Rhondda and 
Taff Valleys to the confluence of the rivers. When swollen by 
heavy rain the waters here form a strong current. A woman 
from Hafod and a man from Treforest, who had been borne 
through the air by some tmseen power, hesitated when they 
reached the wild waters. For this they were badly beaten in 
the night, and in the morning when they tried to throw the 
treasure with the stream^ the current carried it backward. 
For this they were thrown into the water and swept away. 
Nothing more was heard of them for two days, and then they 
were discovered in a bedraggled condition some miles lower 
down the River Taff. Their treasure had followed them, and 
they were fortunate enough to seize the bags, which they threw 
downstream in the orthodox manner. [0. 5.] 

There are many stories connected with secret hoards thrown 
with or against the stream, but, for some unaccountable reason, 
South Wales holds the majority. 

The following story is told in connection with an old 
Glamorgan family, and the origin of their wealth : Centuries 
ago a yoimg girl was engaged as a servant to the wife of a 
farmer. She had not been there very long before she begged 
to be released from her situation. When asked the reason, she 
said that if she went alone through a lane near at hand, she 
always met a strange man. If she changed her route the 
stranger did the same, and he always followed her when the 
night was dull or dark, never in the moonlight. This reached 
the master's ears, and he advised the girl that if she met him 
again to ask the stranger what he wanted. The girl summoned 
up courage to do so, and in response he beckoned her to a small 
field not far from the house. He requested her to come the 
next night, and bring a spade with her, but she was not to tell 
anybody a word about it. The girl obeyed, and the stranger 
pointed to a spot in a comer of the field. He told her to dig. 
She did so, and foimd a pot containing a large number of gold 
coins. The stranger told her that so long as she kept seven of 
the corns and handed them down to posterity, there would be 
good luck in her family. 


Soon after her find, her former mistress died, and a year later 
the owner of the farm married her. When she had been 
married a few weeks, the stranger appeared to her for the last 
time. He directed her to be very careful in handing the seven 
coins down to the future generations, from father to son, or 
mother to daughter, as the case might be. If this was done the 
farm would always remain in possession of her descendants. If 
she or any of her descendants lost the coins, or any portion of 
them, the property would also be lost, or parts of it, in pro- 
portion to the number of the missing coins. This was done, and 
the owners of the farm became more wealthy as the generations 
passed. In the course of time the people bought a large estate 
near the farm, and became important land-owners. Eventually 
succeeding generations were careless, and lost some of the coins. 
Part of the lands were then sold to pay the debts of a spend- 
thrift owner, who afterwards gambled away his fortune. His 
son kept two of the coins, and in manhood went to America, 
where he accumulated a large fortune. His descendants had 
great pleasure in visiting the old farm in Glamorgan, associated 
with the origin of their wealth. [A. B, and Family Collection,'] 

A similar story is told of a Pembrokeshire coimty family ; 
but they kept their coins and retained the estates, and became 
more wealthy as the generations passed. 

In a village near Cowbridge, in the Vale of Glamorgan, a 
middle-aged bachelor and his two sisters lived. The eldest 
sister one night heard a voice calling her from under the bed- 
room window, but she did not answer it. Twice in succession 
this happened, and she told her brother and sister about it. 
They advised her to answer the voice if it called again. The 
third night another call came. She went to the lattice, opened 
it and looked out, but not a person was visible. " What dost 
thou want ?" she asked ; and the voice answered : " Go down 
to the second arch of the gateway leading into St. Quintin's 
Castle, Llanblethian, and there dig. Thou wilt find buried in a 
deep hole close to the inner arch a crock full of gold pieces. 
It's of no use to me now. Take it, and may the gold be a 
blessing to thee." The brother and sisters dug, and with very 
little trouble found the treasure. People said it was a large 
sum of money. [Family Collection,] 

10 — 2 


Effy'r Gwecrydd, whose proper name was Elspeth John, was 
born about the year 1795, and when between ten and fourteen 
she entered the service of a farmer at Prisk, near Cowbridge, in 
the Vale of Glamorgan. While there, and when well on in her 
'teens, a shadowy figure of a man dressed in dark clothes 
repeatedly met her. This blurred-looking personage at first 
merely gazed steadfastly at her, and she paid little heed to it, 
but later on she was vexed and tormented by it. As time 
passed, and she could not get any rest from mysterious pinch- 
ings and other molestations, the girl became very sad, and her 
master and mistress, who were kindly and godly people, begged 
her to tell them if she had any trouble on her mind. She then 
confessed what her experiences were. Her employer urged her 
to address the apparition, but she could not muster up courage 
to do so. Gradually the family came to know when, even in 
the midst of household duties, she was tormented by the look of 
terror in her countenance, and by her cries in bed. Means were 
taken to '* lay " the spirit, as they said in those days,, but all 
were unavailing, and Elspeth declared she was being treated 
worse than ever. Her master at length urged her to put her 
" trust in God,'' and question the spirit. She did so, and the 
spirit told her he was glad she had spoken, for until she spoke 
he was under a spell, and had been " waiting for her before she 
was bom.'' He told her to trust herself entirely to him, and he 
would do her no harm. Then he beckoned her to follow him 
upstairs and into a room, where he asked her to remove a board. 
She did it with ease, even though it was perfectly firm before. 
The spirit told her to take up what she could find underneath, 
replace the board, and follow him. She did so, and he led her 
downstairs. Then she passed rapidly through the living-room, 
where the family and neighbours tried to hold her. Once out- 
side, she "went like the wind," and several saw her carried *' up 
into the air " in the dim starlight. Her flight with the spirit 
continued, she said on her return home, until she reached the 
fish-pond at Hensol Castle, or some part of the River Ely — 
probably the latter, for these hoards always were to be thrown 
into running water, and *' with the stream." There she was 
requested to throw the burden she carried, which fell from her 
hands with a splash into the water. Then the flight home was 


resumed. There the spirit said : " Now I shall have peace, and 
you shall have peace/' and he never troubled her again. It was 
understood that Elspeth was under a bond of secrecy never to 
reveal what she had found under the boards in the old house 
at Prisk. To the day of her death she did not care to talk of 
her experiences, but when anybody asked if the story was true, 
she would solemnly say, '* It is as true as the Bible.*' [Family 
Collection, and the David Jones Manuscripts,'] 

It was generally supposed that when hawthorn-trees stood 
on mounds in fields, and quite apart from hedges, they marked 
the site of a warrior's grave. Long years ago, in a corner of a 
field neai Llantrissant, Glamorgan, there was a very old 
hawthorn. A man living near at hand had heard his great- 
grandfather telling a story of buried treasure in places like 
that, and determined to try his luck. He must first gather 
some spring wort and forget-me-not flowers and leaves, and make 
them into a girdle, which had to be worn around the waist next 
to the skin. A sprig each of the herb and flower were to be worn 
in the hat. In this way the man went to seek the treasure. 
A condition to be fulfilled was that each time treasure was 
taken away the sprigs of the herb and flower worn in the hat 
were to be left as an acknowledgment of the transaction. The 
man dug beside the hawthorn-tree, and soon fotmd a way down 
past the warrior's grave to a large cavern, where there were 
many human bones, beyond which he saw high heaps of gold. 
The entrance from the grave to this cavern was hidden by a 
stone covered with strange inscriptions. The man went for 
some months to the spot, and, unknown to anybody, secured as 
much treasure as he could carry. A year passed, and the man 
grew very rich. One night he brought a heavier load of gold 
than usual, and in his eagerness to be quickly home with it he 
forgot to leave the herb and flower in acknowledgment of the 
treasure. When next he went for treasure, he could not 
remember in which field the old hawthorn grew, and was never 
able to find it again. [C. £).] 



IN the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries it 
was generally asserted by the Saxons that His Satanic 
Majesty lived among the mountains in the heart of Mid- 
Wales, wherefrom he could keep one eye upon the North and 
one upon the South. To prevent the Prince of Darkness 
entering their houses, the Welsh whitewashed their doorsteps 
and sanded the floors — at least, so said the Saxons ; but the 
house-mothers of the Principality declared they took these 
precautions to please the " little people,*' or fairies, and to keep 
witches away. 

An old Glamorgan house-book, kept in the first half of the 
nineteenth century, contained the following scrap of auto- 
biography illustrative of the position held by Satan in Welsh 
folk-lore. It was written above the initials " W. T.,*' and runs 
thus : 

" I was brought up to imderstand that the Devil was not 
an imaginary Terror, but a real Evil, which assumed a multi- 
tude of Shapes to entrap the unwary. 

" My earliest dread of the Evil Being began as far back as I 
can well recoUect, even to days when as a child I went with my 
father and mother on horseback to various places in Glamorgan. 
On the way I was shown ugly corners, where it was rumoured 
the Devil stood with arms akimbo, ready to pounce upon 
dilatory travellers. One of the places said to be frequented by 
the Evil Being was a nook near ' The Dusty Forge ' Inn on the 
coach-road to Cardiff. Whenever I passed that spot I closed my 
eyes, and buried my face in my hands, and kept my head well 
down imtil we had made our way over the great hill known 




as The Tumble-down-Dick, which was to me the place of 
the great Temptation. 

" People in the long winter's evenings alluded to the Evil 
Being's aid in forming the Devil's Bridge on the Rheidol 
River ; to the Devil's Kitchen in the Vale of Nant Francon ; to 
the Devil's Blow-Hole in Gower ; and to other places connected 
with the Prince of Darkness. 

" In play, I avoided the Devil's Messenger, or great dragon- 
fly, and I shuddered when told of the Devil's fish which came 
wallowing up the River Taff on full-moon tides ; or of the 
Devil's gold ring to be found near any spot where the gallows- 
trees stood. 

" Whenever the Devil's name was mentioned in Church, the 
whole congregation began spitting, and continued to do so 
violently for a few seconds, in contempt. Second only to the 
Devil in this respect was Judas Iscariot, at whose name the 
people smote their breasts in abhorrence." [Family Collection,] 
In Welsh folk-lore the dragon-fly is the devil's messenger ; 
the caterpillar is the devil's cat ; the iris is the devil's posy ; the 
wild clematis is the devil's yarn, or thread ; the wild convolvulus 
is the devil's entrails ; the lycopodium is the devil's claw ; the 
euphorbia is the devil's milk ; the palmatum is the devil's 
hand ; the Scabiosa succisa is the devil's bite ; and the wild 
orchid is the devil's basket. 

If it rains while the sim is shining, the Welsh say, " The devil 
is beating his wife." 

If thunder is heard while the sun is shining, they say, " The 
devil is beating his mother." 

A Welsh proverb runs : " Fear God and shame the devil." 
Another old saying is : " Idleness is the devil's pillow." 

When a child or adult is full of mischief, half fun and half 
obstinacy, people in Wales say, " He is possessed," meaning in 
the power of the devil. 

A quaint old preacher of the early part of the nineteenth 
century frequently referred to the " Evil One's blow-bellows." 
In the days of old the devil was sometimes known in Wales 
by the curious names of Andras, or Andros, and Y Fall. 

He was always described as black or very dark, appearing 
sometimes in the; ^hape of a man with horns and cloven hoofs. 


or, taking animal form, he was known to resemble a he-goat. 
In witch lore he appeared as a very black male goat, with fearful 
and fiery eyes. In some of the old 'stories of Wales he took the 
shape of a raven, a black dog, a black cock, a horse, and a 
black pig. Sometimes he appears in the stories in the shape 
of a fish, or as a ball of fire, or as a huge stone rolling down- 
hill, or as a mysterious presence without form, that caused 

In some of the older folk-lore the devil assumes the form of a 
blacksmith, who may be seen busy at the anvil or replenishing 
the forge-fire. He was described as a maker of horseshoes, 
bolts, bars, and ploughshares. 

The black calf of Narberth was said to be the devil in dis- 
guise. On more than one occasion a black calf was seen near 
the brook, and, to the surprise of everybody, a calf it remained 
through the four seasons. People said there must be some 
mistake, and it could not be the same black calf all the time. 
Inquiries were made at all the farms in the neighbourhood, 
but each farmer declared that his black calves had not strayed. 
At intervals the black calf continued to appear. At last one of 
the farmers caught it, and locked it up in a shed with other 
cattle. In the morning, when the men went to turn the 
animals out, the black calf was nowhere to be seen. But it 
always haunted the brook, and deluded new-comers, as well as 
the old inhabitants.* 

On Hallowe'en, or any one of the *' three spirit nights,'' the 
devL[, in the shape of a pig, a sow, a horse, or a dog, prevented 
people getting over stiles ; or, in the guise of an old woman 
spinning or carding wool, he frequented lonely spots and scared 
people away. On New Year's Eve he was seen in the form of 
a sleuth- or bloodhound in lonely ravines. 

It was said in Wales that the devil could assume any shape 
but that of white sheep. On the other hand, he was supposed 
to be able to appear at any time as a black sheep or black 

He was supposed to frequent moorlands and marshes, lonely 
mountain-sides, cross roads, the neighbourhood of forges, and 
frequently was seen with arms akimbo, blocking the entrances 

♦ William Howell, " Cambrian Superstitions/' p. 132. 


to dark ravines and narrow passes. He could walk on water 
as well as on land, and when put to rout by any good man, he 
could cross a lake with ease, or fly up to the mountain-tops. 

In the folk-stories the devil has a prominent place, with 
his bargain-driving, building, flights through the air, and 
encounters with people in lonely places. 

Nightmare, bad dreams, and delirium, owing to fever or 
drink, were said to be the devil's means by which he sought to 
get possession of people's souls. 

In past centuries people would not bury their dead in the 
north side of the churchyard, because in that part of the hemi- 
sphere were " the Old Gentleman's " dominions. He claimed all 
places that lay due north. It was commonly believed that at 
the Judgment Day all buildings would fall to the north, and 
then the devil could " take his share." 

There were various lonely spots in Wales where the devil 
kept nine apprentices. Sometimes the number was named as 
three, five, or seven. The conditions were that when these 
apprentices had learnt their trade, the last to finish and go away 
had to be caught by the devil before he had a chance to escape. 
Once, when three apprentices prepared to leave, one was 
ordered to remain, and the latter, pointing to his shadow, said, 
" There is the last of all !" The devil had to be satisfied with 
the shadow. But the apprentice became a man " without a 
shadow " to the end of his life. [C. Z). and told in Mabsants.] 

From the shores of Cardigan Bay comes the following story : 
" A fisherman was told that he would be lucky and rich, and 
have the largest catch of fish in his life, if he had the courage 
to watch the tide flowing into the River Aeron when it was new 
moon on December 29 : for then the devil went to seek 
or ' lift ' treasure. Unfortunately, the man had to wait a few 
years before the new-moon night of December 29 came. 
Then he went on to the banks of the River Aeron, and was 
gratified, while sitting in a hollow place, by seeing a dusky 
figure lifting a large black object out of the water. In fright, 
the fisherman tried to get out of the hollow place, but found 
himself held tightly back. A moment later the devil stood 
before him. ' You caught a fish last week,' said the devil, 
' and in it you found a ring. It was not a ring of gold, but a 


black one of stone. Give me that black ring, and I will let you 
free.' From midnight to dawn the fisherman remained in 
misery in the hollow. Some comrades tried to set him free, 
but they could not. So the fisherman sent for the black ring 
he found in the fish, and as soon as he placed it beside his enemy, 
the devil took the ring and flew up into the air with it. Then 
the fisherman was free to go where he wished." 

It was not stated whether he ever became lucky or rich, or 
had the largest catch of fish in his life. Probably his release 
from the thrall of the devil was a sufficient reward. [A . B.] 

Another coast story of Wales describes the devil as a fish, 
inducing unwary people to throw nets into the sea, in the belief 
that a fine sturgeon was in the water. In this way they were 
snared to destruction. 

An old Glamorgan man gravely asserted that his grandfather, 
a "truth-teller,'' was once fishing off Penarth Head, near 
Cardiff, and, seeing a large fish, harpooned it. Instead of red 
blood, the wound emitted a thick black fluid, and the odour 
thereof was like " fire and brimstone." 

A Merionethshire blacksmith is said to have enticed the devil 
into his forge, and there hammered his right foot upon the 
anvil, after which the Evil One was lamed " for ever." 

In Glamorgan, St. Quintin is said to have lamed the devil 
on the heights near Llanblethian, and put him in misery for 
three days. The marks, called the DevU's Right Kneecap and 
Left Foot, are to be seen upon the hill-side to this day. 

A man in Llanidloes was heard saying to another : " The 
devil would have had lanto Bach long ago, but he is waiting to 
find his partner, because his grandmother wants a pair of cart- 

A similar story comes from the Vale of Tafi, and is equivalent 
to the English story of " The Devil and his Dam." . 

The card-playing devil was known in many parts of the 

A Cardigan story describes him as a good-looking stranger 

appearing in a village inn, where he offered to play a round with 

a merry party. But when the name of Christ was mentioned, 

the devil vanished up the chimney like " a ball of fire." 

In Carmarthen he played cards beside a pool, in which, as 


the sun arose higher in the heavens, his horns were reflected. 
When these were noticed by one of the party, the visitor 
vanished " in a flash of fire/' 

In Glanxorgan, near Llanmaes, a party of young men were 
playing cards on the Sabbath near a spot known as the Gallows 
Way. By-and-by a stranger came along, and oifered to teach 
them a " new trick." Eagerly the merry party invited the 
stranger to do so, and for quite half an hour play went on 
rapidly. Suddenly one of the party glanced downward. 
" How well your boots are polished !" ventured one of the 
youths. Then the others glanced down. Instead of boots, 
they saw hoofs, and immediately the cards were scattered over 
the stile into the field. The next moment, in the midst of dire 
confusion, the stranger vanished, and the place where he sat 
" was as black as a coal " and smelt of brimstone. 

In a field not far from this spot the devil might be seen 
tossing burning hay at midnight, while his great black dog, 
with " eyes Uke balls of fire," rattled his chains, to the terror of 
benighted wayfarers. [Family Collection.] 

Bargains or compacts with the devil were mentioned in many 
parts of Wales ; but in all these stories the Welsh devil never 
commits himself to do anything in writing. 

In a Carmarthen story the devil bargained that the man 
who made the compact with him should never sing the Venitc. 
So the man always repeated it from beginning to end. Thus 
he cheated the devil. 

A man in North Glamorgan desired to grow rich by any 
means. The Evil One promised a large sum of money from 
November " imtil the falling of the leaf" of a certain 
tree. In the following autumn the devil, presenting himself 
for payment, was shown the tree, which had been cut 
down so low in the late summer that not a leaf remained to 

A famous compact was made between John of Kentchurch 
and the devil. This extraordinary man was known as " Sion 
Kent," and he was a terror to everybody in South Wales. 
He made verbal contracts with the devU on many occasions, 
and always managed to outwit him. When a mere boy he 
was told to scare the crows from the field on a fair-day. In 


order to go to Grosmont (Monmouthshire) Fair, he conjured the 
crows into a bam without a roof, and, by the force of incanta- 
tions, caused them to remain there during his absence. It is 
said that he built the bridge over the River Monnow at Mon- 
mouth, with the aid of the devil, in a single night. People said 
^he kept a stud of horses at the service of Satan. They were 
such swift coursers as to outstrip the wind. The stable where 
they were kept is still shown. 

Welsh folk-lore describes him as going hunting on Sundays, 
and forcing the peasantry to turn out with him. They came 
home jaded and miserable after a terrible ride on the devil's 
steeds to places they had never before seen. On one occasion 
Sion Kent left one of the fiery coursers in a wayside bam. 
There the horse remained for three weeks, and aU attempts to 
dislodge him proved vain. At the end of that time, when 
Sion Kent passed with his notorious steeds, the horse 
suddenly sprang from the bam, and, snorting and neighing, 
joined the uncanny stud. 

Sion Kent agreed with the devil that at his death he would 
surrender his body and soul, whether he was buried in or out of 
the church ; but, by ordering his body to be laid under the 
church wall, he managed to slip out of the contract. A stone 
in the churchyard at Grosmont, near the chancel, is pointed 
out as Sion Kent's grave. 

This remarkable man, around whom many stories cling, was 
very learned. The lolo and other manuscripts place him at the 
close of the fourteenth century. He was supposed to be a native 
of Pembrokeshire, but either from Kentchurch, where he lived for 
some years, or from Gwent, the Welsh name for Monmouthshire, 
where he passed his later days, he derived his designation, Sion 
Kent. He was a Doctor of Divinity and a stem LoUard. An old 
tradition stated he was no other than Owen Glyndwr himself. 
This was probably owing to the friendship existing between 
him and the Scudamore family, with whom Glyndwr passed his 
last years. Dr. John Kent flourished in various forms — now 
as a wizard, then as an author. He was a bard, poet, and 
essa}dst, and a clever linguist. Verses composed by him on 
his death-bed are to be found in the lolo Manuscripts, and 
a list of his poetical pieces is contained in the Welsh Charity 


School Manuscripts, quoted in " The History of the Literature 
of Wales/* by Charles Wilkins, Ph.D., F.S.A., pp. 50-59. 

There are more stories of compacts or treaties with the 
devil in Wales. To the unfortunate, to those in adversity, 
misfortune, or debt, he frequently promised temporal blessings 
for a term of years. At the same time, he made unwritten bar- 
gains for their souls at the expiration of the treaty. In rare 
instances a written bond, signed with the man's blood, ratified 
the agreement. 

An ancient family, living in Carmarthenshire, had a curious 
story attached to it. The head of the family in the early part 
of the eighteenth century was a Colonel in the British Army, 
a Justice of the Peace, at one time a Deputy-Lieutenant for 
the county, and regarded in every way as irreproachable and 
honourable. He was high-spirited, and had a very fiery 
temper, which led him at times to acts of cruelty. He had a 
strong-room or dungeon attached to his mansion, and there 
he was accustomed to lock up culprits waiting to be brought 
up before the magistrates. Beside the dungeon was the 
Colonel's study. Many people to whom the Colonel owed a 
grudge were, on the slightest pretext, incarcerated in the 
dungeon. A neighbouring farmer, who some years previously 
had much offended the Colonel, was brought to the mansion 
for having, as it was supposed, murdered the Deputy-Lieu- 
tenant's head-gamekeeper. He had long been suspected of 
poaching, and the Colonel now saw his opportunity for revenge. 
He treated the man cruelly, had him beaten and almost starved, 
and thus kept him for some time before he was brought to 
justice. The last night for the prisoner to remain in the 
dungeon the Colonel went down to see him. Hearing voices in 
the room, he paused to Usten, but could hear Uttle. A stranger 
came out, and said : " A person will bring you a large bag of 
gold if you will leave the key in the lock of that door." The 
Colonel was indignant at being offered a bribe, and refused to 
grant the request. " You'll need that bag of gold badly one 
day," said the stranger, who, while the Colonel went for a 
weapon, suddenly disappeared. When the Colonel went to 
the dungeon, the door was wide open and the room vacant. 
The Colonel was furiously enraged, and ordered the county to 


be scoured for the culprit. A year later a poacher confessed to 
the murder, and proved the innocence of the farmer. In the 
cojirse of a few years the Colonel found himself in the midst 
of embarrassments, gambling debts, and other troubles. He 
was too proud to let his friends know the state of his affairs, 
' and suddenly wished he could find the stranger who once 
offered him a bag of gold as a bribe. The next night there was 
a wild storm of wind and hail, with thunder and lightning. 
The door of the Colonel's study blew open, and in strode a 
stranger, who asked, " How many bags of gold do you need to 
clear your debts ?" 

The Colonel was amazed, and pointed to the pile of accounts 
before him, and then told the stranger the amount necessary 
to pay them. The world would then be in ignorance of his 
troubles. Looking down to the floor, he saw that the stranger 
had hoofs instead of feet. It was the devil who now demanded 
the ColoneFs soul for the loan. The bribe was too tempting 
now, and the Colonel signed with his own blood a compact 
with the devil. No term of years was mentioned, only at 
death his soul was to be claimed by the devil. Many years 
passed, and when the Colonel died, a large black dog with glaring 
red eyes was found sitting by the corpse. It was driven out 
of the room, but the hideous animal lurked about the house 
until the day of the funeral, and then joined the procession to 
the church. For an hour or more the dog howled over the 
grave, and went away, never to be seen again. People said 
the devil had sent the ColoneVs soul into the black dog, and it 
vainly cried to be restored to its himian body. 

A later member of the same family inherited the fiery and 
sneerful temper of the old Colonel. He derided a tailor who 
worked for him, and challenged the man to show him some- 
thing " the like of which " he " had never seen.'* The tailor 
promised to do so. He thereupon took him to a wood, and 
introduced him to the devil. 

The Colonel's descendant never would tell what he had seen. 
Some said it was his ancestor in the shape of a black dog.* 

Many places are pointed out in Wales as being associated 
with the devil. 

♦ William Howell, ** Cambrian Superstitions," p. 129. 


On the east side of St. Donates, in Glamorgan, is a place 
called the Devil's Stairs. The Devil's Bridge is well known, 
and is classed among the folk-stories. 

On the land belonging to Rhiwogo, on the side of Cader 
Idris, there is a crag known as the Rock of the Evil One. 
It is said that long years ago the parishioners of Llanfihangel, 
Pennant, and Ystrad-Gwyn used to frequent that spot on 
Sunday to play cards and thfow dice. One Sunday the devil 
came to join the people in their games, and afterwards, to 
their dismay, he danced wildly around the rock. It is said 
that the marks of his feet are to be seen on the rock " to this 

In Pembrokeshire two stones are called the Devil's Nags. 
This spot people said was haunted by spirits, who tormented 
evil-doers when they passed that way.f 

One of the caves in Little Orme's Head, Llandudno, is known 
as the Cave of Devils. 

At the head of the Ogwen Valley, near Bethesda, North 
Wales, among grand scenery, is the Devil's Kitchen, which 
in seasons of storm is a pandemonium of weird noises and 
steaming, dripping fogs. The spot thus known is the west 
side of Llyn Idwal, Carnarvonshire. 

The Devil's Punch-Bowl, also called the Devil's Blow-Hole, 
is to be seen at Bosheston Mere, on the coast of Gower, South 
Wales. It is a small aperture, which, like a winding funnel, 
spreads out into a cavern. The sea, driven in by the winds, 
is ejected through the upper hole, in jets of foam and spray 
from forty to fifty feet high, just like geyser spouts. The noise 
is fearful. 

The Devil's Chimneys, three in number, were in Kenfig Pool, 
Glamorgan. The devil was a frequenter of that place. 

The Devil's Bridge, near Aberystwyth, is in a beautiful spot 
over the falls and grand cascade of the Rheidol and Msmach 

There are several versions of the story regarding the origin 
of the ancient bridge. One is to the effect that farmers and shep- 
herds had for many years begged the monks of Strata Florida, 

* Rev. Elias Owen, " Welsh Folk-lore/* p. 190. 

t William Howell, *' Cambrian Superstitions," p. ^o* 


who had considerable property in the neighbourhood, to build 
a bridge over the ravine for their convenience. Finding the 
monks neglectful, the people expressed the wish that the devil 
would come and throw a bridge across. The fiend instantly 
appeared and offered to build a bridge, provided that the first 
creatures to cross it should be sacrificed to him. The devil 
was of opinion that numbers of people would eagerly hasten 
to cross the bridge, and thus insure a large harvest of souls for 
him. The bridge of one arch was built during the night, and 
at dawn the devil awaited his victims. Just before sunrise an 
old woman appeared, enveloped in a cloak. By her side was 
a sheep-dog. Going to the bridge, she paused, and then from 
the folds of her cloak she threw a roll of bread across the bridge. 
The hungry dog ran swiftly over, and the devil was outwitted. 
The people learned that the old woman was one of the monks 
of Strata Florida in disguise, who, knowing all about the devil's 
bargain, had come to rescue the souls of their tenants from 
everlasting destruction. In some versions credit is given to 
a wise old woman, and not to a monk, for thus outwitting the 

The Devil's Stone at Llanarth, near Aberaeron, in Cardigan- 
shire, has a quaint story attached to it. The good people dis- 
covered the devil had been tampering with the bells in the old 
church-tower. This happened on more than one occasion. 
The parishioners requested the vicar to watch one stormy 
night, and, doing so, he saw the devil entering the belfry. 
Presently the vicar, with book and candle, went into the belfry, 
and saw the devil among the bells. The good man conjured 
him to go away, and in such eloquent tones that the devil, 
much frightened, mounted the ladder of the tower. Promptly 
^he vicar followed, and so closely that the devil jumped from 
the battlements, and came down among the gravestones in 
the churchyard. In his fall the devil came down so heavily 
that his hands and knees made the four holes afterwards visible 
in the stone. [A. B.] 

In Mid- Wales there was a story of the devil being shut up 
in a tower, with permission to get out at the top, but only by 
mounting one step a day. There were 365 steps, and the ascent 
took him a whole year. [C. D,] 


A blacksmith down in Gower was working late one night, 
when the devil came into the forge, greeted him, and asked 
what he was doing. The man said he was forging a chain for 
a master mariner, who wished it to be strong enough to hold 
a ship, a giant, or the devil. Laughing boisterously, the devil 
asked if he could accomplish the work. The man said he could. 
" WeU,'' said the devil, " I am a strong man, and should like 
to test the chain." The blacksmith agreed, and a week later, 
when the chain was finished, the devil came to test it. " I 
should like to know the name of the man who is come to test 
the chain," said the blacksmith. " Any name wiU do," said 
the devil ; " and as I came in the nick of time, you shaU call 
me Nicholas." The blacksmith told him he must be bound 
with the chain around the waist, and pull with all his might. 
The devil agreed, and the blacksmith called his apprentices 
to hold the other end of the chain. The devil laughed. " Only 
yourself and three apprentices ? You'd better have a few 
more." " Nay," said the blacksmith. " Four strong men can 
do much." The tug-of-war began, and the devil gradually 
dragged the men out through the door. Beyond the forge 
there was a deep pool, in the middle of which was an old winch. 
Just as the devil gave one mighty tug the four men slackened 
their hold, with the result that the fiend fell into the winch, 
and the water hissed and steamed hke a boiling caldron. 
" Old Nick" was never again seen in that part of Gower. 
[C. Z). and Family Collection,'] 

Breconshire, South Glamorgan, and Cardiganshire supply 
stories much alike, in which a blacksmith throws over the devil's 
head a noose of iron which he is unable to break, and in that 
state he is dragged to the anvil, and his leg is hammered until 
he is lame. 

More than one story describes the devil as a blacksmith, 
making bolts, bars, ploughshares, and harrows. A young 
farmer bought a harrow cheap of a new blacksmith near 
Radnor Forest. The maker told him that if he took the harrow 
into the forest on Good Friday, or one of the " three spirit 
nights," and stretched himself on his back under it, he would 
see all future events which were to happen for the next two 
years. The farmer did so, and for some time remained looking 



through the holes. He presently saw a number of black imps 
with fiery tongues darting out of their mouths. Frightened 
at the scene, the man tried to creep from under the harrow, but 
was held fast, and the devil stood beside him grinning and 
asking : " Have you got a coal-black dog ? If so, give it to 
' me, and I'll let you loose." For a day and a night the farmer 
remained under the harrow, and then an old woman came along. 
Seeing his sad plight, she went to the village and begged a black 
pup of the publican. When the devil received the pup, he 
seized it and flew high in the air over Radnor Forest. [CD.] 

The wife of a Glamorgan blacksmith, during her husband's 
absence for three days and nights, heard the forge fire roaring 
at midnight. Going quietly to a place from whence she could 
see the forge, to her surprise she beheld at the anvil a gigantic 
blacksmith with horns on his head, a very long tail, and horse's 
hoofs instead of feet. The devil was hammering a horseshoe 
for his own hoof, and presently he shod himself. The good 
wife quietly crept to the fowl-house, and disturbed the hens, 
and the next moment the cocks began to crow, whereupon the 
devil fled in anger, leaving one shoe unfinished on the anvil. 
[Family Collection.] 

A similar story used to be told about an old forge from which 
the inn called *' The Dusty Forge," on the main-road leading 
from Cardiff to St. Nicholas, took its name. 

Crack Hill, on the high-road leading from Bridgend to Cow- 
bridge, Glamorgan, is credited with peculiar and uncanny 
associations. An aged Welshman related his personal ex- 
periences, and he was a native of the district. The second 
narrative was proffered by an Englishman, a stranger to the 
neighbourhood, and he did not know anything about the story 
told by the Welshman. The former told me he went to Bridgend 
for some goods which could not be obtained on that day, and 
he had to come home without them. He assured me that he 
did not indulge in *' pipe or pot," and was perfectly cheerful 
when leaving Bridgend in the late autumn twilight. He 
walked briskly until he reached the foot of the Crack, and then 
began the ascent. As he went upward he found walking 
unusually heavy work. Yet the road was dry and hard, and 
particularly agreeable for walking. He therefore thought that 


either he was more tired than usual or lazy ; so he tried to 
adopt a better pace, but could not. To make matters worse, 
night was approaching. When half-way up the hill something, 
he knew not what, seemed to spring upon his back, and after- 
wards pressed heavily between his shoulders. In the starlight 
he looked over his right shoulder, and saw a shape clinging 
closely to him. Being a strong man, he promptly endeavoured 
to shake it off, but it pressed heavier than ever. He felt great 
difficulty in proceeding on his journey, and the effort brought a 
" heavy sweat " to his forehead and face. When just at the 
top of the hill he groaned with agony, and so great was his 
distress that he cried aloud : " O Lord^ I pray Thee, deliver me 
of this burden !" While uttering these words he crossed his 
arms upon his breast. Instantly he was relieved of his load. 
Turning round to see if anybody had been playing a practical 
joke on him, he saw in the starlight a huge shape, whiqh looked 
like a " great bundle," or a " fat, short man " enveloped in a 
dark wrap. The shape rolled rapidly down, and fell into a 
disused quarry at the foot of the hill. Immediately afterwards 
the sound of a loud explosion was heard, and from the depths of 
the quarry sparks of fire shot up and were scattered across the 
road. He hastened home, and when he related his experiences 
to an aged neighbour, the latter said he remembered his father 
telling a similar story of the '* devil on the Crack." [C. D.] 

The second version of this story was told by a civil engineer, 
who had never heard the above narrative. He said he had 
engaged a horse and trap at a Bridgend hotel to convey him to 
Cowbridge, when the Taff Vale Railway extension was being 
made to the last-named town. Unaccompanied, he started 
rather late in the evening, and it was quite dark when he 
reached the foot of the Crack Hill. The sky was obscured, but 
occasionally the moon shone through cloud-rifts. The carriage- 
lamps were lighted, and he was in a very cheerful state of mind. 
Soon after beginning the ascent the horse became very restless, 
and snorted vigorously from time to time. By-and-by some- 
body or something appeared to be thrown into the back of the 
trap. Thinking it to be an intrusive traveller, he called out, 
but there was no response. He whipped his horse, but the 
animal was hardly able to struggle upward, and toiled as if 

II— 2 


under a very heavy weight. Nearing the top of the hill, the 
horse made a desperate effort, and then stood still. The civil 
engineer descended from his seat, and, to his amazement, he 
found the horse quivering, as if panic-stricken. Looking down 
the hill, he saw in the fitful moonlight a monstrous bundle 
rolling downhill, where it fell into the quarry. It was followed 
by a loud explosion and sparks that were scattered across the 
road. The civil engineer had never heard the old story, and 
was much interested when, in 1896, I related the Welshman's 
account of his experiences with the " devil on the Crack." 



YDDRAIG COCH," the Red Dragon which forms the 
national emblem of Wales, heads the list of serpents 
and other reptiles prominent in the folk-lore of the 

In " The Mabinogion ''* is found the first account of the 
dragon of Wales. The story of Lludd and Llevelys con- 
tains the following particulars. Lludd, King of Britain, con- 
sulted his brother Llevelys, King of France, with reference to 
troubles in his kingdom, and the cause thereof. Thereupon 
Llevelys stated that one of his troubles was caused by a home 
dragon and " another of foreign race fighting with it." He 
then gave the following directions : " After thou hast returned 
home, cause the island to be measured in its length and breadth, 
and in the place where thou dost find the exact central point 
there cause a pit to be dug, and cause a caldron full of the best 
mead that can be made to be put in the pit, with a covering of 
satin over the face of the caldron. And then in thine own 
person do thou remain there watching, and thou wilt see the 
dragons fighting in the form of terrific animals. And at length 
they will take the form of dragons in the air. And last of all, 
after wearying themselves with fierce and furious fighting, they 
will take the form of two pigs upon the covering, and they will 
sink in, and the covering with them, and they will draw it down 
to the very bottom of the caldron. And they will drink up 
the whole of the meal ; and after that they will sleep. There- 
fore do thou immediately fold the covering around them, and 
bury them in a kistvaen, in the strongest place in thy dominions, 

* " The Mabinogion,*' p. 459. 


and hide them in the earth. And as long as they abide in that 
strong place no plague shall come to the Island of Britain from 

These dragons were imprisoned by Lludd in Dinas Emrys, in 
Snowdon. Their combats five centuries later led to the ac- 
quaintanceship of Vortigem and Merlin. Vortigern, after the 
treachery of the Saxons, fled to one of the most romantic parts 
of Wales, and ordered the building of a great tower of defence, 
the foundations of which were swallowed up as soon as they 
were filled in. Merlin was sent for, and soon discovered under 
the foundations the red and white sleeping dragons that 
symbolize the Celtic and Saxon races. The red was the British 
dragon, and the white the Saxon. The remains of the castle 
said to be built under Merlin's direction are to be found in Nant 
Gwrtheryn, or Vortigem's Valley, near the mountains called 
The Rivals. There, too, is the cairn known as Vortigem's 
Grave, where the bones of a tall man were found. One story 
describes Vortigem fleeing from his enemies, and leaping over 
the precipice into the sea. This crag, haunted by sea-birds, is 
called " Carreg-y-Llam," or the Rock of the Leap. 

From time immemorial the Red Dragon has been the national 
standard of Wales. In later times this emblem was adopted by 
Henry VII. at Bosworth, and the heraldic office of Rouge 
Dragon, now held by Mr. Everard Green, was established in 
honour of that victory. 

Welsh stories, like those of other lands, reveal formidable 
dragons, griffins, and winged serpents, many of which were 
connected with Arthurian romance and the ancient traditions 
of Wales. 

In the Mabinogi of Peredur* a hideous serpent is described. 
It had upon its tail a ring of gold, or was seated on one. Pere- 
dur fought with and killed the knights of the serpent, and after- 
wards destroyed the loathsome creature, from which he obtained 
the ring, and carried it away 

Legends and traditions about dragons, griffins, and various 

kinds of winged serpents were popular among people in the far 

past, and traces of the belief that such creatures were lurking 

in the dim caverns and wilds of Wales survived the stress of 

♦ '* The Mabinogion," p. 8i. 


time, and existed in folk-stories of the seventeenth, eighteenth, 
and nineteenth centuries. 

In North Wales a place called Llanrhaiadr-yn-Mochnant 
was associated with a dragon, or winged serpent, which went 
forth through a large district, and not only destroyed whole 
flocks and herds, but thought little of capturing men, women, 
and children. Many plans were devised for the destruction of 
this monster, but without avail. By-and-by one man, wiser 
than the inhabitants of the district, suggested a curious 
arrangement. A large stone pillar was built and studded with 
sharp spikes of iron. As the colour red allures a dragon or a 
serpent as well as a buU, the post or piUar was " cunningly " 
draped with scarlet cloth, so that the spikes were carefully 
concealed. When the dragon next came forth, he was allured 
by the red drapery, and at once rushed towards it. The colour 
caused the infuriated creature to beat itself against the pillar 
for many hours, with the result that it died from exhaustion and 
loss of blood. The spot where the man-eating dragon beat 
itself to death is called Post Coch, or Post-y-Wiber, or Maen Hir- 
y-Maes-Mochnant to this day.* The district frequented by this 
dragon, or winged serpent, is in the extreme south of Denbigh- 
shire, on the River Rhayadr, which forms the highest waterfall 
in Wales. The cataract of Rhayadr descends a rock over 
210 feet in depth, and the river below marks the boundary 
between the counties of Denbigh and Montgomery. 

The Vale of Neath, in South Wales, had a dragon, or winged 
serpent, which is said to have frequented the districts near the 
celebrated waterfalls of the Perddyn, Mellte, Hepste, and to 
have concealed itself in the lonely gorges around Pont-Neath- 
Vaughan. Winged serpents were to be seen flying beside the 
waterfalls of ErwooJd, Resolven, and Ystradgynplais. In the 
same district a crested serpent with brilliant colouring around 
its head frequented the fertile glades surrounding Ynys-y- 
Gerwn, near Aberdulais. [A. B.] 

Trelech-ar-Bettws, in Carmarthen, had a winged serpent. 

This creature was generally to be seen on or near a tumulus 

or barrow known as " CrugrEderyn." In this barrow was 

found a kistvaen or stone-lined grave covered with rough slabs. 

* Rev. Elias Owen, " Welsh Folk-Lore," p. 350. 


This is said to have been the burial-place of Ederyn, an early 
Prince or chieftain of Wales. 

Lesser dragons and winged serpents frequented Lleyn and 
Penmaenmawr, in Carnarvonshire ; the ravines of the Berwyn 
Mountains, in Denbighshire ; the district around Cader Idris 
and Penllyne, in Merionethshire ; under Plinlimmon, in Mont- 
gomeryshire ; the wilds of Cardigan ; Radnor Forest ; the 
Brecon Beacons ; the marshes of Carmarthen ; and the lands 
around Worm's Head, in Gower. In South Glamorgan, Llan- 
carfan had the reputation of being haunted by winged serpents 
and other reptiles, while into the parish of St. Donates, in the 
same county, these loathsome crawling creatures could not 
make their way, for in the long ago, according to tradition, 
Irish earth was mingled with the soil. 

Linked with all the dragon, griffin, and winged serpent 
stories was the belief that in lonely ravines, moorlands, and 
forests treasures of gold and hoarded gems were guarded by 
these creatures, who sometimes conveyed their goods through 
the air at midnight when the old hiding-places were dis- 

The griffin, like the dragon, had a prominent place in the 
lore of Wales. At one time it was used as a tavern sign. The 
Griffin and the Two or Three Griffins were names of inns in 
some of the towns of Wales and of wayside hostelries, and 
were very popular as late as the early part of the nineteenth 

The woods around Penllyne Castle, Glamorgan, had the repu- 
tation of being frequented by winged serpents, and these were 
the terror of old and young alike. An aged inhabitant of 
Penllyne, who died a few years ago, said that in his boyhood the 
winged serpents were described as very beautiful. They were 
coiled when in repose, and " looked as though they were 
covered with jewels of all sorts. Some of them had crests 
sparkling with all the colours of the rainbow.'' When dis- 
turbed, they glided swiftly, " sparkling all over," to their 
hiding-places. When angry, they " flew over people's heads, 
with outspread wings bright, and sometimes with eyes, too, 
like the feathers in a peacock's tail." He said it was " no old 
story," invented to " frighten children," but a real fact. His 


father and uncles had killed some of them, for they were " as 
bad as foxes for poultry." This old man attributed the ex- 
tinction of winged serpents to the fact that they were " terrors 
in the farmyards and coverts." [/. R.] 

An old woman, whose parents in her early childhood took 
her to visit Penmark Place, Glamorgan, said she often heard 
the people talking about the ravages of the winged serpents in 
that neighbourhood. She described them in the same way as 
the man of Penllyne. There was a " king and queen " of 
winged serpents, she said, in the woods around Penmark, and 
" more of them in the woods around Bewper '* (Beaupr6). 
The old people in her early days said that, wherever winged 
serpents were to be seen, there ** was sure to be buried money 
or something of value " near at hand. Her grandfather told 
her of an encounter with a winged serpent in the woods of 
Porthkerry Park, not far from Penmark. He and his brother 
*' made up their minds to catch one, and watched a whole day 
for the serpent to rise. Then they shot at it, and the creature 
fell wounded, only to rise and attack my uncle, beating him 
about her head with its wings." She said a fierce fight ensued 
between the men and the serpent, which was at last killed. 
She had seen the skin and feathers of the winged serpent, but 
after the grandfather's death they were thrown away. That 
serpent was notorious " as any fox " in the farmyards and 
coverts around Penmark. Buried money had been found not 
far from Penmark Place in her childhood, and she said it had 
been *' hidden away by somebody before going to the great 
Battle of St. Pagan's, when the River Ely ran red with blood/' 
This old dame was a direct descendant of an aged woman who, 
in the memory of Edward Williams (lolo Morganwg), said she 
distinctly recollected the Battle of St. Pagan's, near Cardiff, 
during the Civil War. The family was renowned for its 
longevity, several members having passed the age of 105 and 
107. The old dame who gave these accounts of the serpents 
died at the age of 99, and retained full use of her faculties to 
the last. . [0. 5.] 

Similar stories about winged serpents were told in the neigh- 
bourhood of Radnor Forest and in several parts of North 
Wales. All are agreed that this kind of serpent was dreaded 


as much as foxes, and their extermination was due to their 
depredations in farmyards and coverts. 

There was also a much-dreaded cockatrice that sucked the 
milk from cows, blood from fowls, and was fond of eggs. 
Children were told that if they were naughty the cockatrice 
would come and suck their blood. It had " eyes in the back 
of its head as weU as in front," said the old people, and was a 
terror to the country-side. Several children's stories contained 
particulars about the cockatrice. 

The serpent, or snake,* was regarded by the Druids as a 
symbol of the renovation of mankind, which was one of the 
great doctrines set forth by their religious mysteries. It is 
known that the snake casts its skin annually, and returns to 
a kind of second youth. Fine specimens of this reptile were 
kept by the Druids close under the altar of Augury, and from 
their motions important divinations and legal decisions were 

Below the breastplate of judgment the Druids wore, sus- 
pended by a chain, the Glain Neidr, or snake-stone. It is 
sometimes called the adder's stone or adder's egg. 

The Glain Neidr, or Maen Magi, of Wales was supposed to 
possess many virtues. Its origin as a stone of mystery was 
attributed to the following cause : In the spring, and especially 
on May Eve, a large number of snakes were accustomed to 
meet in many secluded parts of the Principality. The creatures 
apparently formed a congress, which generally ended in snake 
warfare. After a fierce battle, in which the snakes writhed 
and hissed fearfully, the spot where the assembly took place 
was covered with froth. In the midst of this would be found 
the Maen Magi, or Glain Neidr, or snake-stone. This stone 
resembles a perfectly round and highly polished pebble. Some- 
times the colour is of a pale terra-cotta tint, sometimes 
light green, and often of a soft azure hue. I have before me 
as I write, a Maen Magi of a soft pink shade blended with 
lilac. The tints resemble those of the opal. It is over two 
hundred years old, and feels extremely cold to the touch, 
especially if placed against the eyes, lips, or temples. This 
bead, like others of its kind, was formerly supposed to be of 
♦ Davies, ** Mythology," pp. 210-216 ; Meyrick, *' Costumes/' p. 28. 


use in the cure of many diseases. It was especially good for 
all affections of the eye. The owner of the bead states that 
for inflammation of the eyes, ulceration of the eyelids, and for 
sties, it is a never-failing cure if held or rubbed upon the 
affected part. 

Several persons in the Principality said they were eye- 
witnesses of the great snake congress in the spring. One of 
them states that it is the time when the snakes select a new 
king, and the old colony rises up in arms against the younger 
generation. The newly chosen monarch and his party are 
victorious. Some of my informants have seen in the midst 
of the snake froth the Maen Magi. Others have not been 
fortunate enough to find the mysterious pebble. There were 
snake congresses on Midsummer Eve or Day. [C. D, and 
Family Collection.'] 

The snake-stone had not only healing powers, but the pos- 
session of it was supposed to render the owner victorious over 
his enemies, and capable of foreseeing future events. Under 
certain conditions, it enabled people to discover hidden 
treasure, and to make themselves invisible. People believed 
that serpents' eggs were in some mysterious way highly 
medicinal, and that a quantity of them, made into a kind of 
decoction, was effectual in cases caused by the stings of ser- 
pents, bees, hornets, and wasps, and the bite of any mad 
animal or infuriated beast. But, while it was effectual in the 
cure of one person, it would act as a strong poison, fatal in its 
results, to another. 

It was also said that if a man were stung by a snake, and 
could very soon afterwards catch it, or another serpent, and 
cut the body open lengthwise, that he would find a long 
roll of white fat, which, applied to the wound, was a certain 

According to an old tradition, whenever a snake is found 
under or near a hazel-tree on which the mistletoe grows, the 
creature has a precious stone on its head. 

The ash-tree is said " to have a spite against snakes." 

In the heads of toads and adders stones of varied power were 
said to be engendered, and they were always associated with 
witchcraft and magic. 


In stories told by aged people, men and women, it was said 
that the person who could muster up courage to eat the flesh 
of the white snake would soon be able to understand the 
language of " beasts, birds, reptiles, and fish." 

Superstitions with reference to reptiles and other venomous 
creatures were formerly general. 

One of the oldest was the belief that when a dragon or a 
winged serpent was discovered in the act of conveying 
treasure, food, or a babe to its den, the creature, would drop 
them all if the name of Christ were repeated several times. 
Another old superstition was that all lizards were formerly 

It was said in Wales that a snake-skin plaited into a whip 
and used by a waggoner, or a carrier of ?ny kind, would enable 
his horses to draw the heaviest load. 

A stone of the snake or adder placed in the bottom of a goblet 
of wine, or any kind of spirit or alcoholic Uquor, prevented 
intoxication. The heart of a snake or adder, or a frog, encased 
in a locket and worn around the neck, will insure luck in any 
speculative games or business. If snakes, toads, frogs, or 
adders enter a house in May, they bring sickness or mis- 
fortune. Snakes, toads, frogs, and lizards seem to have played 
important parts in magic. Witches were supposed to have the 
bridles for their midnight rides made of snake-skin. 

If on your way to market you see a snake, a toad, or a frog, 
crossing your path, you will not have luck in buying or 
selling. If the first frog you see in spring leaps in water, and 
not on land, you will have more loss than gain during that 

Toads, frogs, and adders were called the " flocks of the 
witches." If an adder is seen in a house, somebody will die 
within a year. 

Transformation into a serpent or snake occurs in a few of the 
folk-stories. Illustrations of these will be found under that 
heading. In many locaUties an unusually bright-looking snake 
of any kind, which appeared mysteriously and vanished sud- 
denly, was regarded about eighty years ago as the representative 
of a sensual or divorced woman. [Family Collection.] 
The blind-worm, or slow-worm, which is about twelve to 


eighteen inches long, is an object of terror to Welsh children ; 
for the old women say that if this worm were not blind, it 
would be a fearful enemy to mankind. 

To kill the blind-worm was to bring calamity to the slayer. 
To step over it was to put the person in " the power of the 
devil." If you crushed this worm you would crush your luck. 
To avert its evil power salt was thrown at it. If it came into 
the house, it was *' a sign of death." If it crawled under the 
cradle, the baby would die. If it went into the stable, the horses 
would be ill. 

Among the lesser snake stories many are to be found in 
every part of Wales. In quiet and leafy neighbourhoods snakes 
have been known to go to children and infants when alone, and 
sip milk with them out of their basins or mugs, and a friendship 
has been formed between them. 

An old Glamorgan farmer mentioned a snake becoming very 
attached to his own child, who, as she grew up, petted and 
fondled the reptile. When the little girl was six years old an 
uncle, fearing the snake might injure his niece, killed it. 
Gradually the child pined away and died. 

Several South Wales stories describe a great number of 
snakes filling a farmyard and bam, and one amongst them was 
the king, distinguished from the others by a glittering golden 
crest or crown on its head. The farm-boys and maids were 
so accustomed to these snakes that they would fondle 

An ancient farm-house in the Vale of Tail was frequented by 
a king snake and its courtiers. While these serpents remained 
in their old haunt all went well, and prosperity continued. 
But when the farmer died, his eldest son immediately killed the 
king snake, upon which the others took their departure. With 
them went the health, happiness, and prosperity of the family 
for ever. 

A Vale of Glamorgan story runs thus : To a farmer's 
daughter near Penmark a large snake used to come at milking- 
time. The girl noticed that it wore a crown on its head. Every 
morning and evening the girl gave the snake some warm new 
milk. One day the snake vanished, but it left a ring of gold 
on the spot where it used to come night and morning. It was 


whispered that the girl substituted this ring for her marriage 
circlet on her wedding-day, and by that means she became very 
rich. In future years she was ill, and when near death she 
made her daughter promise to wear her ring. The daughter, 
eitlier carelessly or wilfully, allowed her mother's ring to remain 
on her finger, and it was buried with the body. From that 
moment the daughter's luck waned, and to the time of her 
death she attributed her adversity to having buried the snake- 
ring. [0,S.] 

In some parts of the Principality there was formerly a 
tradition that every farm-house had two snakes, a male and 
a female. They never appeared until just before the death 
of the master or mistress of the house ; then the snakes 

A small fiery viper, so called because it was very veno- 
mous, used to be found in Wales, where, according to tradi- 
tion, only two of these were alive at the same time. For 
soon after their birth the young vipers would eat up their 

The healing power of snakes appears to have been remark- 
able. With reference to this many folk-stories are told in 
North and South Wales. 

One from the beautiful Vale of Clwyd, in the North, and one 
from the fertile Vale of Glamorgan, in the South, will be sufficient 
as examples of healing serpents. 

A few miles from Ruthin, on the banks of the Clwyd, a 
farmer's son suffered badly from a skin affection resembling 
erysipelas. The irritation and pain frequently led him to seek 
seclusion by the river-side. There one day he took a short nap 
in the dinner-hour. While his companion, one of the farm- 
hands, enjoyed his noontide meal, he saw a snake coming from 
the hedge to the sleeper. The workman, instead of rousing his 
young master, watched the snake's movements. Presently the 
reptile glided close to the sleeper's face, and appeared to be 
examining the skin. Then the creature glided slowly back to 
the hedge, and ate some herbs and grasses. It returned, and 
gently as possible emitted its saliva over the young man's face. 
This disturbed the sleeper, but the workman, having heard 
something about the healing power of snakes, begged his master 


to remain quite quiet. " For," he said, " I am rubbing an 
ointment on your face/' By-and-by the snake went away. 
The workman did not say a word about the reptile, but in the 
course of a week the painful skin affection vanished, and never 
again reappeared. When completely cured, the young farmer 
asked the workman the name of the ointment that had wrought 
such a cure. Then the man described what he had seen, to the 
astonishment of everybody. The herbs and leaves eaten by 
the snake were never discovered. [/. R.] ' 

From the neighbourhood of St. Nicholas, in the Vade of 
Glamorgan, comes the following story : 

Scurvy had broken out in the houses of one or two farmers, 
and, as usual, the families were for a time prevented having any 
personal contact with other people. Among the sufferers was 
a girl aged about eight. It was known that every day she 
carried her bowl of bread-and-milk, or fiummery-and-milk, into 
the orchard, and there, sitting down under a favourite apple- 
tree, ate it, at the same time feeding two or three snakes 
who came regularly for their portions. The child, like other 
members of the family, suffered with scurvy. One day the 
father of the child chanced to be in the orchard when the mid- 
day meal was served. He watched the snakes gliding from the 
long and deep grasses to the child, who, as usual, fed her friends. 
Then suddenly one of the snakes lifted its head, and appeared 
to be examining the child's face. Presently the reptile glided 
away, and soon returned with some leaves in its mouth. These 
were deposited by the snake beside its companions, and soon 
the reptiles were bruising the leaves in their mouths. Then 
each in turn applied the bruised leaves with their saliva to the 
child's face and arms. While the snake went for the leaves the 
little girl, as usual, laid the empty bowl beside her, and stretched 
herself at full length on the grass. The snakes applied their 
salve while their patient remained in a reclining posture. 
Later in the day the child was asked if the snakes had ever 
before ** licked her like that." She answered : '* Only twice. 
This is the third time." 

The snakes did not make another application of leaves and 
saliva, but three days later the scurvy disappeared " as if by 
magic." The farmer told the doctor who was attending his 


family of this singular occurrence, and both men searched for 
the leaves, but could not find them. Although the farmer was 
certain he knew the leaves, not any of them proved successful 
in the other cases of scurvy. 

The following story about a black snake was told in the 
first half of the nineteenth century. It must have been a very 
old story, because the narrator always located it on the nearest 
mountain to his home, and this particularly black reptile 
appeared to have no fixed abode. In Carmarthenshire it was 
located among the Van Mountains ; in Pembrokeshire it was 
foimd in the Preceley Range ; while in Glamorgan its home was 
the Great Garth, the Llantrisant, or Aberdare Ranges. The 
story ran thus : A great black snake was seen coiled in the sun- 
shine. Its head and tail did not exactly meet, but left a small 
opening. In the middle of the coil there was a large heap of 
gold and silver and copper coins. A working man once saw 
all this treasure, and he resolved to have some for himself. 
There was nothing to be done but to just pass through the 
opening between the black snake's head and tail, and step in. 
At first the man was afraid, but, mustering up courage, he 
stepped in. He saw that the snake was asleep, and there would 
be no harm in paving some of the coins for himself; so he 
began to fill his pockets with gold, silver, and copper. When 
his pockets were full, he took off his coat, laid it down, and 
began filling it with more treasure. Greediness made him 
forget the snake, but a fearful roaring frightened him. He 
immediately left his coat where it was, and fled. Looking back, 
he saw the black snake and the treasure sinking into the 
mountain, and the noise ceased. [A. B. and C. Z)., told also 
in Mabsants,] 

Castell Gwys, near Haverfordwest, is now known as Wiston. 
Centuries ago there were several claimants to this estate. In 
the days of old a serpent lived in a hole on Wiston Bank, not 
far from the castle. This serpent possessed innumerable eyes, 
and it was impossible for anybody to gaze at the creature 
without the latter seeing him. 

It was agreed by the kindred of the family that the person 
who could gaze on the reptile " without the same serpent or 
cockatrice seeing him " should be the lawful heir of the estate. 


Accordingly, several of the claimants tried every imaginable 
way to accomplish this object, but without success. One of 
them formed a plan, but kept the secret to himself until the 
time came when the others had given up the attempt. Then 
he took a barrel up to the top of the hill, secured himself in it, 
and allowed it to roll down the bank past the exact spot 
where the serpent placed itself. As the man passed the 
spot where the serpent was stationed he peeped through the 
bunghole, and said : " Ha, ha ! bold cockatrice, I can see you, 
but you cannot see me !" In this way that claimant became 
owner of the Wiston estates. Castell Gwys was formerly the 
seat of the Wogan family. [0. 5.] 

Roch Castle, about six miles to the north-west of Haverford- 
west, marks the spot beyond which the Normans had no need 
of fortresses. The ruins are approached by a steep path, and 
the tower occupies the summit of a huge mass of trap rock 
which rises abruptly from the level plain. It is said that the 
feudal Lord of Roch built this solitary tower in a very peculiar 
place because he had been warned by a witch, or in a vision, 
that his death would be caused by the sting of a serpent or 
adder. If he passed a certain year in safety, he need hot after- 
wards fear. When the tower was built, the timorous Lord of 
Roch lived in the top story of his stronghold. The year passed, 
and he was within a few days of his emancipation from thral- 
dom. His friends prepared for rejoicings outside, while he 
quietly but thankfully waited his release. It was cold and 
wintry weather, and the wind from St. Bride's Bay set the 
prisoner's teeth chattering. The nights were so bitterly cold 
that a kind friend sent up a few faggots of wood, so that the 
Lord of Roch might make a fire therewith, which he did *' right 
gladly.'' The fire was quickly kindled, and the solitary man 
warnied his numbed hands. By-and-by he fell asleep, and 
from the embers on the hearth a treacherous adder crept up 
and stung the Lord of Roch. When his friends came the next 
morning he was dead. [/. R. and 0, S,] 




THE origin of the corpse-candle is supposed to date back 
to the fifth century. St. David, the patron of Wales, 
earnestly prayed that the people he loved, and among 
whom he toiled, should have some kind of warning to prepare 
them for death. In a vision he was told that through his 
intercession the Welsh would never again find themselves 
unprepared ; for always before such an event the people in 
the land of Dewi Sant would be forewarned by the dim light 
of mysterious tapers when and where death might be ex- 
pected.* St. David apparently prayed particularly for South 
Wales, because it is said that corpse-candles are seen more 
vividly and frequently there than in North Wales. 

The Canwyll Corph, or corpse-candle, was seen passing along 
the route to be taken by a funeral, or hovering around the spot 
where an accident would happen, or fluttering along the edge 
of the waves where a wreck would be. When two lights were 
seen, two funerals would take place. A tall light foretokened 
the death of a man, a lesser one for a woman, and a small one 
for a child. The colours of the lights varied. Before a man's 
death a red glowing light was seen ; a pale blue light indicated 
a woman's death ; and a faint, pale yellow light appeared before 
a child's death, f 

Innumerable stories of corpse-candles are to be found in all 
parts of Wales, but the South provides the greatest number. 
As nearly all of these tales bear a striking similarity, with only 
the difference of location, the following wiU serve to represent 

the whole : 

♦ Rhys, '* Celtic Folk-lore/* p. 275. 
t " Jones of Tranch," p. 30. 



In passing Golden Grove from Llandilo to Carmarthen, 
several people in the eighteenth century saw three corpse- 
candles gliding down the river at various times three weeks 
in succession. The persons compared their experiences, and 
wondered what the omen meant. Was it for the villagers, 
or was it for the noble family who lived at Golden Grove ? At 
length the solution came. Three members of the nobleman's 
family died simultaneously in different parts of the country.* 

At Disgwilfa, about twelve miles from Carmarthen, a 
mysterious light was seen glimmering in the comer of a field, 
where the branches of a tall sycamore-tree made a deep 
shadow. For quite a year, winter and summer alike, this 
light appeared, and was seen by several persons, who com- 
mented upon the strange occurrence. The light glimmered in 
the corner, about two or three feet from the gate leading into 
the field, and was always seen between " dusk and dawn/' 
At last the mysterious light disappeared, and the very next 
day a gentleman much respected in the district " came to his 
end " by a fall from his horse. He was hunting, and, while 
taking the gate, fell over his horse's head, and was killed on 
the very spot where the glimmering light or corpse-candle had 
been seen. [A. B.] 

Colliers in various parts of Wales even in the present day 
believe in corpse-candles, and amongst the aged of that class 
the story about St. David and his omen was formerly preva- 
lent. Before one of the great explosions at Llanbradach 
people declared corpse - candles without number were seen 
hovering around the mouth of the pit. At Glyncorrwg, near 
Bridgend, Glamorgan, ** hundreds " were seen before an ex- 
plosion. At the mouth of the Ogmore River two lights were 
seen hovering for many weeks along the sands. Later on 
two brothers, who attempted to cross at low tide, were drowned. 

Many people attempt to account for the phenomena by 
saying that the corpse-candle is the product of noxious gases, 
and the vapour of swampy places, where the mysterious lights 
are Jcnown as jack-o'-lantern, or will-o'-the-wisp. A distinct 
difference is made between the latter and the corpse-candle, 
which is often seen in the house, and sometimes in the room, 

* William Howell, " Cambrian Superstitions," pp. 60, 61. 

12 — 2 


of a person about to die, or in the dwelling of somebody related 
to the individual. 

A correspondent stated that in his own experience the fol- 
lowing circumstance happened : In the year 1880 his brother, 
a native of Carmarthenshire and captain of a vessel, was away 
at sea. When at home, he occupied a small room only suitable 
for one person. One evening, about six o'clock, a dim light 
was seen in that room by a cousin from a neighbouring farm. 
The young man asked : ** Is Jack come home V " No," was 
the reply. " Then who is in the room ?" he asked, and the 
answer was that " nobody had been there with a candle.'' 
The circumstance passed unnoticed, until another member of 
the family, and an inmate of the house, saw a dim glimmer, 
" like a rushlight or taper," through the window. Later still 
the mother one night, going into the room to pull down the 
blind, turned to go to the door, and over the bed saw a dim 
hovering light. She went downstairs in considerable agita- 
tion, and exclaimed to the members of her family the hope 
that nothing had befallen Jack. The mail was eagerly waited 
for, and in the meantime neighbours saw the dim light in 
Jack's room. A few weeks later news reached the family that 
the captain died at Singapore of fever about the time the 
corpse-candle appeared in his room. [Mr. Price, U.S.A.] 

A well-known family in Glamorgan always see a corpse- 
candle in the house before the death of a relative. It 
generally appears in the library or the hall, where it is customary 
to deposit the coffin in preparation for the funeral ceremony. 

Among the peasantry it is common to hear stories about 
corpse-candles being seen hovering over a spot where soon a 
burial will take place. An old man said that he remembered 
one autumn particularly when strange stories were told of 
numerous corpse - candles being seen hovering along the 
roads leading to various burying-places in Bridgend, 
Glamorgan. He was quite a little boy at the time, but old 
enough to know that mysterious candles were seen, and many 
of them. He heard his father teUing an elder brother that 
not less than *' six candles, two abreast," had come out from 
a neighbour's house and gone towards the east. In the winter 
of that year the small-pox scourge carried oft numbers of the 


inhabitants, and six deaths took place in the neighbour's 
house in rapid succession. 

Spectral or phantom dogs were seen before deaths, and 
these had quite a separate existence from the spirit-hounds 
of Arawn, Prince of the Underworld, though, as the old people 
used to say, they " all served the same master/'* 

There are innumerable stories of an uncanny dog appearing 
before a death, and in nearly all instances the creature is 
described as silent and immovable. It makes its first appear- 
ance immediately before or just after a person is taken ill, and 
vanishes when death takes place. Its coming and going are 
alike mysterious. In colour sometimes it is white, black, 
mottled, or grey. Its eyes look red around the lids, as 
though it had been weeping. If driven away, it returns. 
These stray and strange dogs were ominous of death. 
" For more than three weeks before my master died,*' said 
an old and faithful retainer of a Welsh gentleman, " a small 
white and curly-coated dog planted itself on the steps leading 
to the front entrance, and would not go of its own -accord. 
When driven severely away it returned. It was a lifeless, sad- 
looking animal, that never once lifted its eyelids, which were 
almost hidden by shaggy hair. It never made a sound, not 
even when beaten away. Every night I drove it out through 
the front gates, but every morning there it was again. And 
then I knew it meant death for the master. When the master 
died the dog went, and never returned." 

A lady living in one of the crowded towns of South Wales 
was followed every evening she went out by a white dog 
resembling a Scotch terrier. As a rule, it met her at the 
corner of the street where she lived, and trotted by her side 
to the door of her house. Sometimes she coaxed it indoors, 
but it would not go with her. In the morning it waited on 
the doorstep for the lady's walk out. This happened for 
several weeks, and the lady's friends " did not like it." They 
said it was an uncanny dog. The lady was taken ill, and the 
servants drove the dog unceremoniously away ; but it returned, 
and remained at its post. The dog's friend died, and the 
animal was never again seen. 

* '* Jones of Tranch," p. 38. 


A man living some miles out of the town of Brecon had led 
a life of dissipation, and was notoriously bad in many 
ways. When he was ill, a small black terrier took its post 
inside the gates leading to the house. Other dogs avoided 
the strange animal, which was left severely alone. The dogs 
of 'the house — great, strong, and sturdy creatures — sniffed 
at the strange animal, and in fear and trembling crawled 
terrorized away. Their owner died, and the strange black 
dog crept upstairs, concealed itself under the bed, and in the 
morning was found seated stoically on a chair beside the dead. 
It was driven downstairs, but returned to its post. On the 
day of the funeral the servants tried to catch it, but the 
mysterious creature skilfully evaded their clutches. On the 
morning of the funeral it was nowhere to be seen, but when the 
coffin was being lowered into the grave the dog reappeared, 
and seated itself at the head of the vault. There it remained 
for an hour, and vanished. Everybody said it was " the devil's 
dog waiting for the soul of the evil man.*' The animal was 
described as " coal black, with very red eyes." [0. S.] 

A similar story was told of a wicked woman, who was always 
very unkind to animals, and certainly had never petted any 
dog to induce its attention. In this case the animal was a 
huge black mastiff, with glaring eyes and red eyelids. 

In the memory of a few aged people the death-horse sur- 
vives. Sometimes the phantom animal was white, with eyes 
that emitted cold blue sparks *' like forked lightning." Some- 
times it was " coal black," with eyes *' like balls of fire." The 
death-horse came to bear the soul away, and its coming was 
quiet and stealthy, but its departure was accompanied by the 
" wind that blew over the feet of the corpses." 

To see the white horse on a new-moon night was a " sure 
sign of death " in the family of the person who saw it. Some- 
times it meant death to the beholder. 

A few years ago an English visitor in a rural district of 
Glamorgan asked, and received permission, to see the interior 
of an ancient manor-house. It was embowered in ivy, climb- 
ing roses, and other flowers. After spending an hour in* the 
house, the visitor left, and while proceeding down the drive, 
he saw a white horse cantering towards him. It was a beautiful 


animal, with a splendid white mane and long flowing tail. 
The stranger stood aside, and the horse passed, going straight 
up to the grand entrance of the mansion. The visitor thought 
no more of the horse until dinner-time in a small country inn 
in the neighbourhood. There he happened to remark to the 
landlord what a fine white horse he had seen in the manor- 
house drive, expressing at the same time his opinion that it 
was an Arab. He explained that it was riderless. The land- 
lord asked if any groom or man was with it, and the stranger 
said it was alone. For a moment or two the host looked grave, 
and then in a whisper said : " If you please, sir, do not men- 
tion this in the village, because it is a token of death in the 
manor-house family." The visitor remained a fortnight in 
the neighbourhood, and before leaving he heard that one of 
the sons of the manor-house had just died in India. 

In a field called the Whitton Mawr, on the Dufiryn estate, 
which formerly belonged to the Bruce-Price family, but is now* 
in possession of Mr. John Cory, one of the wealthy philan- 
thropists of Cardiff, a white horse of considerable magnitude 
used to be seen in the first half of the nineteenth century. It 
was pure white, and generally was seen grazing quietly as if 
chained, or gambolling about and snorting. Aged people said 
its appearance was an omen of death in the family who for- 
merly owned the estate. The then possessors of the property 
were descended from Admiral Button, who was an Arctic 
explorer in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. So fond was Admiral 
Button of his white horse, named Cartouche, that in his will 
he ordered the animal to be kept for the rest of his days a 
pensioner in the Whitton Mawr. People said that the horse 
died the day after his master's death. Ever afterwards the 
wraith of Cartouche presignified a death in the Button family 
and their descendants. [0. S.] 

An ancient family in North Wales always regarded a white 
horse as an omen of death. Whenever a pure snow-white 
horse in the actual flesh passes through some of the villages 
in West Glamorgan, Carmarthen, and Pembrokeshire, people 
say there will be a death in the parish. 

The same story was formerly common in several of the 
counties of Wales and the Marches. 


In some of the villages in South Wales a coal-black horse, 
waa^iormerly to be seen standing near the " burying-lane *' 
waiting " for orders." When these were given, the animal 
went slowly and stealthily away, and placed itself in the road- 
way opposite the house from which it was to '' bear the soul 
away.*' When this horse, with eyes " like balls of fire," 
snorted, tossed its mane, and was seen galloping away to its 
destination, people said a sudden death was imminent. If it 
went slowly, the illness would be lingering. When it can- 
tered, the illness would be fluctuating. But, in any case, 
whether the illness be slight or serious, the coal-black horse 
meant death. [Family Collection.] 

Corpse-birds were supposed to appear before a death, and in 
the rural parts of Wales people do not readily give up this 
superstition. This bird has been described as having few 
feathers, and those resembled the downy undergrowth of other 
birds' wings. It came in the early morning, and remained on 
the branch of a tree near the house of the sick person until 
death took place. Its note was a melancholy chirp, that con- 
tinued with few interruptions all through the day. People 
always and quickly recognized the note of the corpse-bird, and 
the " sound and sight of it," says a villager, " makes one shiver." 

In some parts of the country the corpse-bird is described as 
being without feathers and without wings. It is supposed to 
be continually crying in Welsh, " Come ! come !" 

A Breconshire family always heard this mysterious bird 
before a death in the family. It had a doleful chirrup, and was 
quite unlike any other bird. In size and shape it resembled a 
robin, but its feathers were of a dull ashen grey, and bedraggled,^ 
while its eyes were " like balls of fire," and remarkably restless. 
It always appeared '* in an old apple-tree " quite close to the 
house, and sometimes remained for weeks almost motionless. 
When death took place it disappeared. 

The " Deryn Corph," or corpse-bird, was familiar to several 
people living in the neighbourhood of Caerphilly and Rhymney, 
Glamorgan, in the middle of the nineteenth century as having a 
smooth fur-like coat and small fin-like flappers that enabled it 
to hop from bough to bough. It could not fly, and came an(J 
disappeared mysteriously in the night. It was about the size 


of a starling, and in colour dark, almost black, with a grey 
breast. Its chirrup had a curious metallic soimd, and some- 
times it had a strange cooing accent. 

In Glamorgan and Carmarthen people said it was more fre- 
quently heard than seen, and its note could not be mistaken for 
that of any other bird. 

Closely associated with corpse-candles and other omens of 
death are the phantom funerals, records of which are to be 
found in every county of Wales. 

The following account was supplied by a native of Denbigh- 
shire. He said : " Many years ago my uncle Uved in a mining 
village a few miles distant from Ruabon. In the twiUght of a 
bitterly cold day in December he was hurrying homeward, 
when, not far from the parish church, his progress was ob- 
structed by what appeared to be in the growing twihght a 
funeral procession. He could distinctly see the bier, the coffin 
on it, the mourners, and others following. In order to let the 
procession pass my uncle stood aside, and then he saw the well- 
known faces of a doctor and a tradesman who lived in Ruabon. 
The people were singing, but he could not distinguish the words, 
although he was familiar with the tune. But presently he 
observed that the funeral passed the church instead of going 
into it. Impelled by curiosity, he followed the funeral, which 
vanished when it reached a house not far from the church. 
Much impressed by what he saw, he hastened home and told 
his wife of the vision he had witnessed. About six weeks later 
my uncle happened to be in Ruabon in the twilight, and a 
funeral procession passed the spot where he had seen the 
phantom mourners. Curiously, the real funeral passed the 
church, and halted at the house he had seen in his vision. In 
the procession the doctor and tradesman were seen as before. 
The body was that of a person who had died in the South of 
England, and was conveyed to the house of the deceased, there 
to remain imtil the next day. This explained the remarkable 
circumstance of a funeral in the late twiUght." 

The next story comes from Corwen, and was suppUed by an 
eyewitness. He said : ** I was coming home late from a 
neighbouring village, when I suddenly heard wailing soimds 
a short distance in advance. I paused and listened, and 


suddenly found myself borne backward in a funeral procession, 
I distinctly saw the coffin, and recognized one or two persons 
in the crowd beside me. With the procession I was borne on 
to the ancient parish church of St. Julian, and not far from the 
doorway saw a well-known Dissenting minister approaching 
and joining us. Then the whole phantom vanished. I was 
greatly frightened, and on reaching home promptly related my 
experiences. About fourteen days later a friend of ours died 
in Corwen. I went to the funeral, and, arriving rather late, was 
pressed backward in the crowd. Near the old church a well- 
known Dissenting minister joined the procession, and in it I 
recognized other people who appeared previously as phantoms." 
A farmer Uving in the Vale of Glamorgan had the weird 
experience of " seeing his own funeral." He had been to 
Cowbridge Market, and was returning home just before nightfall, 
when he saw a procession coming down the lane leading from 
his own house to the highway. His horse appeared to be 
witnessing the same scene, for the animal halted at the entrance 
of the lane to allow the crowd to pass. The farmer gazed spell- 
bound as the mourners approached, because immediately after 
the coffin came his own wife dressed in the deep mourning of a 
widow ! She was supported by her eldest son. The crowd 
passed and vanished, and the horse, scared by the scene, rushed 
up the lane and abruptly halted at the garden gate. Hearing 
the clatter of the horse's hoofs, and fearing the animal was 
riderless, the farmer's wife and son hastened out, and were 
thankful to j&nd the husband safe and unhurt. That night the 
farmer was unusually moody and silent. He could not help 
thinking of the strange scene he had witnessed. A few weeks 
later he was seized with a serious illness, from which his family 
hoped he would soon recover. " I shall never get up again," he 
said, and then he related his recent experience. One of the 
sons who told me this story said everybody present was un- 
speakably thrilled. Three days later the farmer died. 

A man living near Porthcawl, Glamorgan, told me he was 
returning from Sker one evening late in September, when the 
moonlight, shining on the sea, revealed the huge shape of a 
wrecked vessel among the dangerous rocks of that wild coast. 
Wonderment caused him to halt and watch the scene. 


Presently he noticed a group of men bearing a burden from the 
rocks to the land, and thence onward towards Porthcawl. He 
followed at a distance, and was astonished to see the burden- 
bearers halting at his own door. He immediately quickened 
his steps, but when he reached his house the group of men and 
their burden vanished. The man told his father what he had 
seen, but begged him not to mention the circumstance to his 
mother. A week later a ship was wrecked on the rocks of Sker. 
Among those who lost their lives was his own brother. He had 
been away on a two years' voyage, and was wrecked in sight of 
home. His corpse was borne to Porthcawl in the moonUght. 

A well-known country doctor of South Glamorgan did not 
believe in the supernatural, but he was obliged to acknowledge 
a certain mysterious experience during a professional round. 

One evening in the twilight he was driving from Sigginston, 
vid Llanmihangel, to Cowbridge. Just before reaching the 
gates of the carriage-drive leading to Llandough Castle his 
horse suddenly halted. Looking forward in the uncertain 
light, the doctor saw a very large crowd of people emerging from 
the castle gates. He drew his horse and gig away to the left 
side of the road, and so great was the crush that he was almost 
obliged to pull up into the ditch. Presently he saw a coffin 
covered with a very handsome pall, and in the bearers he ob- 
served well-known men. The great crowd passed on, while the 
doctor gazed in mute astonishment, and then fell in line with 
the many carriages and traps that brought up the rear of the 
procession. Just before reaching Hanblethian the funeral 
cortege vanished in the growing darkness. Amazed at what he 
had witnessed, the doctor drove rapidly into Cowbridge, and 
later on proceeded home. Five weeks subsequently the doctor 
was called upon to attend an inmate of Llandough Castle, who 
was seized with a serious illness, which ended fatally. The 
funeral was announced for a certain hour, and the doctor 
intended going early to the castle on that day. But, having to 
pay a professional visit to a farmer in Sigginston, he was 
delayed, and only reached the castle gates in time to see the 
procession emerging. Then he remembered the phantom 
funeral of five weeks previously. As in the illusion, he had to 
draw up his horse and gig out of the way of the crowd, and then 


fell into line with other carriages. In this way he proceeded to 
Llanblethian Church. 

Roger's Lane, a byway leading from St. Athan to Bethesda 
ar Fro, in the Vale of Glamorgan, was the reputed scene of many 
^ phantom funerals. Long years ago a man was walking through 
this lane after dark in the late autumn. Suddenly and in the 
distance he heard people singing a funeral hymn. By-and-by 
from the opposite direction came the sound of another and quite 
different hymn. Presently he saw a crowd of people standing 
and congregating together. As he drew nearer, he found him- 
self in the midst of two funerals, one going to St. Athan and 
the other passing to Bethesda. There was difficulty in passing, 
one procession eventually doing so by waiting for the other to go 
by. The man felt a sense of oppression and being crushed as 
he struggled out of the crowds, and hastened his steps in advance 
of the procession going towards Bethesda. He went on, but 
after passing the chapel looked back, and there he saw the 
funeral entering the graveyard. Some time passed, and he 
was called upon to attend a funeral that was obliged to go via 
Roger's Lane to St. Athan. In the midst of the way a funeral 
coming from St. Athan met the other, and there was consider- 
able difficulty for both to pass. The man said all was verified 
to the letter, even two different funeral hymns being heard, 
and the sense of oppression and being crushed vividly re- 

Several years ago a farmer in the Vale of Glamorgan was out 
in his fields when the first glimmer of dawn appeared in the 
east. He was much surprised when the sound of many people 
singing a well-known Welsh funeral hymn reached him. 
Hastening to the stile, he looked down the road, and was 
astonished to see a funeral procession coming from the church, 
and halting before a house at the west end of the village. The 
farmer recognized the mourners, and immediately afterwards 
the phantom vanished. Three months later a neighbour's son 
died in Cardiff, and in the early morning his body was brought 
past St. Athan Church, and deposited in the homestead, where 
it remained imtil the afternoon. Then the funeral took place 
in the parish church. 

The old chapel of Bethesda ar Fro. in the Vale of Glamorgan, 


had the reputation of being frequently the scene of phantom 

An aged dame related the following experience of her own in 
or near the year 1871 : She had been spending the day with 
some friends, and had remained longer with them than she 
intended, so that when she passed Picketston it was well on 
into the gloaming of the September evening. Drawing near 
the chapel, she saw in the distance a crowd approaching the 
place. Dim lights were burning in the chapel, and were visible 
through the windows. The woman halted, and gazed in won- 
derment at the strange scene. But presently she mustered up 
courage enough to walk on, and a moment later found herself in 
the midst of a very large concourse of people, by whom she was 
jostled and hustled, as she said, " unmercifully.'* In her eager 
desire to be quit of the crowd, she pressed through it ; but at the 
gates of the chapel she was intercepted by a huge white dog 
running before a piebald pony, which reared and kicked so 
much that the crowd had to surge back. Taking advantage of 
this temporary clearance, the woman ran forward and past the 
chapel, only to find stones hurled after her. But, glad to 
escape, she ran breathlessly on to Boverton, where in the first 
house near the bridge she fainted. Upon recovering she related 
her uncanny experience, and her friends particularly noted 
what she said about the white dog and the piebald horse. 
Three weeks later a funeral took place at Bethesda. The 
woman and her friends attended it, and, to their astonishment, 
a great white dog ran among the people, and caused a piebald 
pony ridden by a farmer to rear. In the commotion the stones 
newly placed on the road were scattered, and several of them 
struck the woman, thus verifying in every respect the phantom 
funeral she had seen so distinctly. 

The neighbourhood of Wick, near Bridgend, Glamorgan, had 
the reputation years ago of being the scene of many phantom 
funerals going to and from the churches in the district. Some 
would be going to Wick Parish Church, and others passed on 
to the village of St. Bride Minor. 

The following is given as having taken place in 1836 : Late 
one evening the daughter of a farmer living in the village of 
Gileston, near Barry, South Glamorgan, went out for a walk 


towards a place called The Leys. On her return she fell 
fainting into a deep armchair. When she recovered, she told 
her friends that she found herself in the midst of water and a 
cmwd of people who were conveying a coffin in a boat, which 
they landed at the back-door of the farm. She said there was 
not a sound to be heard, but she distinctly saw a great crowd. 
Her friends went forth to ascertain the cause of her terror. 
The night was fine, and the moonlight so bright that the 
smallest object could be distinctly seen. When the friends 
reached the back-door, neither crowd nor coffin could be seen. 
The farmer said : " Who ever heard of a funeral at ten o'clock 
at night ?" 

No more was thought of the matter until a remarkably 
high tide occurred in the Severn Sea. Then the waters ran 
inland for several miles. It flooded the lands and submerged 
all the low level plain extending from Aberthaw to The Leys, 
and thence up Gileston Lane, which was impassable. A person 
who died in an old house on The Leys was to be buried during 
the afternoon of the high tide. The usual route to Gileston 
Church was submerged ; therefore the bearers crossed the water 
in a boat with the coffin. Having laid the latter down at the 
back-door of the farm, they remained there with it until boats 
could bring over the mourners and friends. In this way the 
vision was verified. 

An old man sitting in the parlour of an ancient inn near the 
sea at Porthcawl, Glamorgan, saw a funeral procession, followed 
by crowds of people, approaching the house. It was twilight, 
and the shadowy forms were indistinct and unrecognizable 
with one exception. That was a man in hunting costume, 
and he rode a spirited and restive horse. The spectator was 
greatly astonished to see the crowd coming to the house, when 
the church of Newton Nottage was quite in the opposite direc- 
tion. Never a funeral or wedding-party passed or halted at that 
out-of-the-way inn. The old man related his experiences to 
the landlord, who, after the manner of those days, about 
seventy years ago, said : " There will never be a church built 
beyond this house in my time or anybody else's." A few 
years passed. The landlord of the inn died suddenly in Neath, 
and his body was conveyed by road to the inn, where it remained 


during the night previous to the interment in Newton Nottage 
Church. As a mark of respect to the landlord, who was a kesen 
follower of the hounds, a neighbouring gentleman in hunting 
costume went to meet the procession, and accompanied it 
home. It was particularly noticed that he rode a spirited and 
restive horse. 

In former times pedestrians, especially in the twilight and 
night, kept as closely as possible to the grassy margins of the 
roadways, so as not to obstruct the passage of phantom funeral 
processions. There are old people living at present in various 
parts of South Wales who can well remember stories about 
phantom funerals, and who, after a little coaxing, are willing 
to relate their own personal experiences, provided their names 
are " not printed,*' as they say. 

The Welsh are endowed with second sight, and testimonies 
of their gifts in this respect are to be found in all rural districts, 
but particularly in South Wales. 

A native of Carmarthen related the following story : He 
knew a young man who was supposed to be gifted with second 
sight, but had no personal evidence of it. One evening in the 
twilight he was out walking with the young man in the neigh- 
bourhood of St. Peter's Church. Just as they approached the 
church the young man stood aside and bared his head, bowing 
it with a very reverent gesture. A few moments later the young 
man put his hat on and resumed walking. The narrator of 
this story asked him why he halted. " Didn't you see ?" was 
the reply. " But I forgot ; you couldn't. I saw a funeral 
procession passing into the church." Then he named some of 
the persons present. "And," he added, "Mrs. So-and-so 
was there. She was dressed as a widow. Her husband will 
die." Six weeks later the actual event took place. 

A woman who was a native of Carmarthenshire gave her 
own personal experiences. One day, while standing at 
her cottage door, which commanded a view of the railway^ 
station, she saw a tall man with sandy hair coming quicjdy 
down the roadway. She heard him asking a child his way to 
a house. His accent was broad Scotch, and she distinctly 
heard the child reply, as they often do in Wales : " Over by 
there, to be sure !" The man entered her cousin's house. 


Later in the evening she asked her cousin who the Scotsman 
was. " There was no Scotsman here," repUed the cousin. 
Three weeks later her cousin was taken ill, and they sent for 
the doctor. The woman was standing at her own door, and 
was astonished at seeing a tall man with sandy hair coming 
rapidly down the station road. She heard him asking a child 
where her cousin lived, and was told, " Over by there, to be 
sure '/' It was the locum tenens of a general practitioner in 
the district. 

A Pembrokeshire lady of Welsh origin was walking in her 
grounds when she met her own counterpart coming towards 
her. She was greatly surprised, and, with fixed eyes, saw her 
own facsimile pass by. When she went home she said : '* There 
is not much time for me in the world." As she was in perfect 
health, her friends asked why she made that remark. She 
told them of her strange experience, but they advised her not 
to think any more about it. Three days later she died 

The apparition of a living person was called Lledrith. 
It was always regarded as an omen or forerunner of death. 
Some persons acknowledge the possession of the Lledrith, 
which means " illusion." An old Glamorgan family who once 
owned large estates, but afterwards were much reduced, had 
many stories to tell of the Lledrith. One was remarkable. 
The head of the family was comfortably seated in a chair on 
the lawn, enjoying the summer breeze. His wife was indoors 
reading. The old man saw a man striding quickly along the 
drive towards the front-door. He wore a suit of brown 
holland, and on his head was a sombrero. "It is Jack, my 
son from Mexico !" exclaimed the old man, who remained 
seated because he could not move without assistance. Presently 
a lady dressed in deep mourning passed along. It was his 
eldest daughter, only recently widowed. A few minutes later 
a girl of ten ran along. She wore a white dress and scarlet 
sash. Her golden hair fell in waves to her waist. It was one 
of his granddaughters. When his wife came to him, he related 
his experiences. She had seen them too ! The next mail 
from Mexico brought the news that his son died suddenly two 
days after the Lledrith appeared. His widowed daughter 


died three months later, and his granddaughter was drowned 
nearly four months afterwards. The Lledrith, or illusion^ did 
not come as an omen that death had taken place, but was about 
to happen. 

At the same time, this illusion was not confined to apparitions 
of those about to die. There are many instances of this, but 
a few will serve for illustration. A well-known townsman of 
Cardiff in the sixties was seen by two eyewitnesses walking 
along Crockherbtown, now called Queen Street, towards his 
house in Windsor Place, which he quickly entered. Those 
who saw him followed, for they had business to do, and wished 
to seize the opportunity for an interview. They knocked at 
the door, and made known their desire. The servant said her 
master was not in. The men looked amazed, for they saw 
him entering. They asked to see her mistress, and the latter 
corroborated her servant's statement. The men at once turned 
away, and retraced their steps along Crockherbtown. Judge 
their surprise when they saw their friend rapidly overtaking 
and passing on before them. Still ahead of them, he turned 
from Duke Street into High Street, and vanished. Determined 
to have the interview, the friends went to the business place 

of Mr. K . They were ushered into his private office, and 

found him calmly looking over his accounts. " Well, there 
is no mistake about it,*' said one of the men ; " you have played 
us a fine trick." 

Mr. K looked up, amused, and asked for an explanation. 

His friends related their experience. He declared he had 
entered his office at nine in the morning, and had not been 
over the doorstep since, in proof of which he called a witness. 
Convinced of this evidence, one of the eyewitnesses said in 

Welsh to the other : " It was the Lledrith." Mr. K lived 

many years afterwards, and used to enjoy telling the story of 
what he called " the Welsh Lledrith," or " unaccountable 
happening." [Family Collection.'] 

A young man near Talgarth, in Breconshire, said he once 
chased his wife for a mile and a half up hill and down dale, until 
he panted for breath, and was forced to halt, when she vanished. 
Thinking all this was done for a froUc, he went home, to fmd 
his wife quietly seated by the window, knitting. ' " How did 



you get back V* he asked. " Get back ?" reiterated his wife. 
" Why, IVe never been anywhere !" " Tut, tut ! Gwen,'' 
said her husband. " You looked as roguish as could be 
beckoning me from the cherry-tree and out into the road. 
Then you ran, and I followed a mile and a half, until I could 
follow no more. I was forced to sit down." " Then you must 
have followed a Lledrith looking like me, for I have not been 
outside the doors since you went to the bam after tea.'* This 
again was an " unaccountable " experience. 

weird ladies and their work 

Grey Ladies. 

A FEW miles above Cardiff, on the eastern side of the river, 
there is a thermal spring called TafJ's Well. Taff is a cor- 
ruption of Daf , or David, the patron saint of Wales. This 
well was much frequented by people suffering from rheumatism. 
A lady robed in grey frequently visited this well, and many 
people testified to having seen her in the twilight wandering 
along the banks of the river near the spring, or going on to 
the ferry under the Garth Mountain. Stories about this 
mysterious lady were handed down from father to son. The 
last was to the effect that about seventy or eighty years ago 
the woman in grey beckoned to a man who had just been 
getting some of the water. He put his pitcher down and asked 
what he could do for her. She asked him to hold her tight by 
both hands until she requested him to release her. The man 
did as he was bidden. He began to think it a long time before 
she bade him cease his grip, when a " stabbing pain '* caught 
him in his side, and with a sharp cry he loosened his hold. The 
woman exclaimed : " Alas ! I shall remain in bondage for 
another hundred years, and then I must get a woman with 
steady hands and better than yours to hold me." She vanished, 
and was never seen again. 

In connection with this well there was a custom prevalent so 
late as about seventy years ago. Young people of the parish 
used to assemble near Taff 's Well on the eighth Sunday after 
Easter to dip their hands in the water, and scatter the drops 
over each other. Immediately afterwards they repaired to the 

195 13—2 


nearest green space, and spent the remainder of the day in 
dancing and merry-making. 

A grey lady frequented the neighbourhood of Llanishen, near' 
Cardiff. She was often seen, especially by drovers, who 
appeared to fascinate her, for she would follow them for a mile 
or so, and return to St. Dene's Well, where people said she was 
held in bondage for having done many evil deeds. There was 
no story about her release. 

A woman robed in grey formerly used to frequent a spot on 
Moel Arthur, overlooking the Vale of Clwyd, in North Wales. 
Under a rock near which the grey lady was chiefly seen, treasure 
was concealed in an iron chest with a ring handle. People 
said that the place of concealment was illuminated by a super- 
natural light. Occasionally in the evening, or soon after dawn, 
men dug for this treasure ; but their efforts were rewarded with 
fearful noises, and they were driven away by thunder, lightning, 
and rainstorms. One man found the grey lady beckoning to 
him as he ascended with pickaxe and shovel. He went to her, 
and she gave him some peas in a pod, and whispered, '* Go 
home." He did so, and the peas turned to gold in his pocket. 

In the city of Cardiff a grey lady used to be seen walking along 
Crockherbtown, now called Queen Street. Her grey robes 
were partly concealed by a mantle of the same colour, with a 
hood over her head. Some old houses then stood between the 
large house on the comer not far from Cory Hall and the Feeder. 
She generally began her walk there, and proceeded along 
Crockherbtown, through Duke Street, towards Duke Robert's 
Tower, and thence to the bridge over the River Taff . There she 
would stand and signal for a time, and then vanish. Sometimes 
she signalled to somebody unseen across the river, or, turning 
her back it) the river, she waved her arms in the direction of the 
castle where Robert of Normandy was imprisoned. 

In the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth centuries a 
lady robed in grey used to be seen wandering about a spot called 
Maes Gwenllian among the heights of Mynydd-y-Garreg, near 
Kidwelly. She had a long trailing robe and a girdle, and her 
head was concealed by a hood. Once a man met her face to 
face, and afterwards declared she was headless, while the hood 
was only a make-up. An old Carmarthenshire man ventured 


to address her one moonlight night. Using the name of the 
Deity and Jesus Christ, he begged her to tell him what she 
wanted. " Alas !'' she answered, " I cannot rest until I find 
my head. Help me to search for it." For an hour or more 
the old man wandered around the spot, but nothing could be 
found. Three nights in succession he kept tryst with the grey 
lady, and at last he found a stone not unHke a skull. This he 
handed to his companion, who concealed it under her robe, and 
hastened away from Mynydd-y-Garreg. The grey lady was 
never seen again. This folk-story was connected with the tragic 
fate of GwenUian, the beautiful wife of Gruffydd-ap-Rhys-ap- 
Tudor, Prince of South Wales in the twelfth century. The 
brave Princess and her young sons during her husband's absence 
led the Welsh against the Normans, under Maurice de Londres, 
who advanced to attack Kidwelly Castle. She was captured 
and beheaded on the spot that still bears her name. [^4. J5.] 

White Ladies. 

Wales, in common with England, has innumerable white 
ladies, and every county of the Principality has several of these 

A very pretty and pathetic story about a white lady is told 
in the Vale of Glamorgan, where, near the village of St. Athan, 
is the site of ancient West Norchfete Castle, long ago cor- 
rupted to West Orchard. 

In a field* near this place the apparition of a slim and graceful 
lady, whose white silken robes trailed in the dewy grass, was seen 
in the early mornings. She never appeared in the night, but 
always soon after dawn during the summer months, • Her story 
is pitifully romantic. 

Long centuries ago a daughter of one of the powerful 
Norman De Clares, Lords of Glamorgan, became the bride of Sir 
Jasper Berkerolles. When this worthy knight returned home 
from the Second Crusade, he accused his wife of infidelity with 
Sir Gilbert D'Umphraville, of East Norchfete Castle. Lady 
Berkerolles vainly protested her innocence, but enemies worked 
♦ lolo Manuscripts, p. 400. 


against her, and her husband condemned her to a terrible doom. 
In the field not far from the castle Sir Jasper had a hole dug, 
and up to her neck in this grave the beautiful lady was doomed 
to a slow death by starvation. Not a crumb was to be given 
her, and not one drop of water was to moisten her parched lips. 
She was to linger in misery through this Uving death. Her 
sister in pity begged that she might go and see the sufferer at 
least once a day. To this Sir Jasper agreed, provided that food 
and beverage were not conveyed to her. At dawn every day 
the faithful sister carried out her mission. In order that 
moisture should reach the Ups of Lady BerkeroUes, the sister 
wore long silken robes, and allowed them to trail in the dewy 
grass. Up and down close to Lady BerkeroUes the silken folds 
trailed, and from them the innocent wife received or sucked 
sufficient moisture to sustain her for ten days. 

But sisterly devotion could not save life, and Lady BerkeroUes 
died of exhaustion. Later on Sir Jasper proved his wife's inno- 
cence, and went raving mad. 

So late as 1863 women who went sheep-milking in the early 
morning declared they often saw a beautiful lady dressed in 
white going " round and round *' a certain spot in the field, but 
they ** could not make out why.'' 

Aged people in former years always had something to say 
about the starvation of a Countess and the faithful " Ladi 
Wen " (white lady). 

Probably Lady BerkeroUes, as the daughter of the De Clares, 
who were Earls and Lords of Glamorgan, was known as " the 
Countess "in her own right, having borne that title before her 
marriage. The Countess, in Welsh " larlles," is the name 
attached to a lane, a stUe, and a hiUock or bank caUed a " Twm- 
path," aU in the vicinity of the tragedy. 

In one old story she was described as guarding treasure hidden 
under the hillock or bank above mentioned, but that every 
time she attempted to guide anybody to the post a white dog 
rushed towards her. This dog had red eyes. [C. D,] 

Between Ewenny and Bridgend, Glamorgan, there are places 
named White Lady's Meadow and White Lady's Lane. In 
former times the white lady was said to appear, and point 
towards Ewenny. -People said she knew where treasure was 


hidden, but could never go to find it. She was sometimes seen 
wringing her hands, as if in great trouble. A man once ven- 
tured to address her, and she seemed pleased. He asked what 
he could do to help her, and she answered that if he would hold 
her tightly by both hands until she told him to stop, her troubles 
would leave her. The man did as he was bidden, but the loud 
barking of a dog caused him to look round and release her 
hands. With a scream she cried, " I shall be bound for another 
seven years !" and vanished. A later story attributes the 
white lady to a crime that had been committed in a demolished 
house in the meadow. 

At a place called Rhiwsaeson, near Llantrisant, Glamorgan, 
a woman in white used occasionally to appear. A farm labourer 
returning home one evening met her. She approached him, 
saying : " Your wife has given birth to a babe. Go and briijig 
the boy to me at once, that I may be saved.'* The man was 
surprised to find the event had come about. He feared to do 
this, and the parson advised him to have the infant christened 
before taking him out, fearing he might die before his return. 
When he, carrying the babe, reached the spot where the white 
woman waited his coming, he found her crying bitterly and 
wringing her hands, for one of the conditions of her soul's 
redemption was the kiss of a new-bom and unbaptized child. 
A shepherd, minding his master's sheep on the Llailtrisant 
Mountain, sat to rest in a sheltered nook where a huge rock 
covered with heather shielded him from the fierce sunshine at 
noontide. He looked a few paces away, and saw a white-robed 
girl scattering a few roses. The shepherd waited until she was 
gone out of sight, and then went from his nook to gather the 
flowers. He looked at them, and said : " Oh, what beautiful 
flowers !" He replaced them where they had been scattered. 
Suddenly the maiden reappeared, looked at him kindly, and 
smiled sadly, but never uttered a word. That night he took the 
flowers home, and placed them in water. In the morning he 
found three gold coins where the flowers had been. 

Many years ago at Castell-y-Mynach, or the Monk's Castle, 
near Cardiff, a white lady used to appear occasionally among the 
ruins of the ancient monastic buildings. A man who was 
working in the garden saw the white lady. Her dress was as 


white as the driven snow, and her long black hair streamed over 
her shoulders. She beckoned to the man with fingers covered 
with rings that sparkled in the sunlight. In the left hand she 
held a bunch of forget-me-nots. The man, terrified, ran into 
the house, and called his master and mistress to " come and 
see the white lady." They went, but saw nothing. " There 
she is," said the man, whereupon the white lady vanished. 
They said she guarded the monk's treasure. 

A ploughman was busy ploughing a very large field near 
Caer Bannau, the site of a celebrated Roman station, about 
three miles away from Brecon. In the course of his work from 
day to day he noticed a maiden robed in white, smoothing her 
hair in the sunshine, and beckoning the man to her. At first 
he took no notice of her, but as she repeated the signal he 
mustered up courage to respond. The maiden told him she 
was a King's daughter who had sunk with a landslip into the 
ground. She could only be saved by a man who, without 
halting or looking round, would carry her to the nearest church- 
yard, and throw her down with all his might. The ploughman 
promptly picked her up, and ran with her to the nearest church. 
He was about to fling her off his shoulders when something 
tweaked his ears so violently that he looked round, and let his 
burden fall. The maiden flew into the air, lamenting that she 
must suffer more severely now, and wait another hundred years 
for a man with a more steady hand. [A. B.] 

In the same neighbourhood, but a little nearer Brecon, a 
woman clothed in white used to be seen. A farmer, curious 
to see her, went to her haunt, and found her scattering seeds. 
He was about to run away, when she begged him to return, and, 
addressing him kindly, she gave him a handful of leek seeds. 
Thanking her, he put the seeds in his pocket, but threw most 
of them away. On his return home several grains of gold had 
stuck in his pocket. He never saw her again. 

Ogmore Castle, near Bridgend, Glamorgan, had a white lady 
who was supposed to guard treasure which was kept under the 
flooring of the tower. A man accosted her once, and she took 
him to the spot, where she asked him to lift a large flooring- 
stone. This he did, and in a hole under the stone he found an 
old crock full of golden guineas. " Take one half," said the 


white lady, " and leave the remainder for me." He did as he 
was bidden, and replaced the stone. One evening he thought 
he might as well have the other portion, and accordingly lifted 
the stone, and filled his pockets with the gold pieces. Just as 
he was leaving the castle the white lady appeared, and accused 
him of theft. He denied having taken the gold, but she made 
him take off his coat, and in doing so the money rattled out. 
The white lady then set upon him, and, to his dismay, he found 
she had claws instead of fingers, and with these she nearly tore 
him to pieces. He shouted, and tried in vain to get out of her 
grasp, but this he was not able to do until she had badly used 
him. He went home in a dilapidated condition, and was 
accused of having been mixed up in a drunken brawl, which he 
stoutly denied. Soon afterwards he was taken ill, and gradually 
became worse. Nobody knew what his illness was, and in the 
course of time he wasted away. Before he died he confessed to 
his adventure, and people called his complaint " the white 
lady's revenge." 

A young man who was fond of frequenting the banks of the 
River Towy, not far from Carmarthen town, observed on 
several occasions two parties of white-robed ladies in boats 
crossing the river. He noticed that they went very swiftly, and 
vanished almost mysteriously. After seeing them more than 
once, he concealed himself behind some bushes, and waited 
there until these white ladies came again. The next time they 
went very quickly to the margin of the river, and when the 
boats were in mid-stream the bright moonlight revealed the 
fact that the ladies sailed in . cockle-shells, and when they 
reached the other side they vanished, and black cats appeared. 
These were the white witches of Carmarthen, who could trans- 
form themselves into cats. 

On a farm in South Glamorgan, which was supposed to be 
under a ban, between eleven and twelve noon a woman robed 
in white used to be seen. She begged the workmen, in passing, 
to lay hold of her, catch her tightly by the hand, and never 
utter a word. The men went on in fear and trembling. One 
day a man mustered up courage to do as she wished. While he 
held her, a pack of hounds surrounded him, leaped up his 
sides, and were ready to tear him to pieces. Terror forced from 


him the exclamations, " Christ, save me ! God, protect me !" 
The moment the woman was loose from his grasp, she sobbed 
and moaned, saying : "I am lost for ever !" She never ap- 
peared again. [0. 5.] 

Black Ladies. 

There are stories of a few black ladies in Wales. 

A woman robed in black, with a long black floating veil, 
frequented the banks of the River Teifi, in Cardiganshire. 
She was always pointing to a bend in the river, and could some- 
times be heard wailing and hurrying in search of something. 

Not far froni St. Athan is Boverton, supposed to be the 
Bovium of the Romans. Carlyle, who visited a member of the 
Redwood family at Orchard House in this place, mentions it in 
his letters. The Castle of Boverton was a British stronghold, 
afterwards occupied by the Romans and Normans. In the 
reign of Richard I. it was the property of the Earl of Gloucester, 
whose daughter Hadwisa became the wife of Prince John. 
When, about ten years later, John divorced Hadwisa of 
Gloucester, so that he could marry Isabella of Angouleme, his 
wife, who has been described as amiable and affectionate, 
retired to the seclusion of Boverton Castle. According to local 
tradition, King John once fled from his barons, and was shel- 
tered in Boverton Castle by the gentle woman he had wronged. 

Early in the nineteenth century men were employed to dis- 
mantle part of this castle. One dark hazy day they saw a tall, 
shadowy female figure, dressed in deep widow's mourning of 
antique design.* Her face was scarcely visible, but her long 
dark hair fell in neatly braided tresses down to her waist. She 
wandered from room to room in a slow, disconsolate manner, 
and occasionally her sobs and sighs broke the silence. At first 
the workmen were greatly frightened, but as during the progress 
of the work they frequently saw this apparition little heed was 
taken of it. One of the men mentioned the circumstance to a 
very aged person in the district, and was told : ** Oh, she is 
Wissie, the King's widow. IVe often seen her." May not this 
dark lady have been Hadwisa of Gloucester ? 

♦ " Vale of Glamorgan,*' p. 336, 


When the dismantling of the old castle was completed the 
dark apparition vanished, but for long years afterwards people 
declared the black lady haunted Boverton Castle. 

A lady robed in black frequented the old sea-lock in the time 
when Cardiff was a small and insignificant place. She appeared 
to be searching for something which she could not find. In the 
twilight she would go down to the sea-lock and return again, 
wringing her hands as she went. Mariners and others were 
quite aware of her visits, but felt afraid to address her. Some- 
times she would stretch imploring hands towards people, and 
then go rapidly to the sea-level. At last one evening a skipper 
ventured to speak, asking what he could do for her. She asked 
him to take her out in a boat to the mouth of the River Ely. 
If he would he should be handsomely rewarded. Eager for 
gain, the skipper granted her request, and rowed to the mouth 
of the River Ely. Never had he ferried such a heavy cargo 
before. Every moment he feared that the weight of the black- 
robed lady would sink his boat. He was about to express his 
fears, when the lady said : " Land me quickly, and draw up the 
boat.'' He did so. The lady beckoned him to follow, and she 
led him into the woods far from the river. There she pointed 
to a stone, which the skipper lifted at her direction. In a crock 
under the stone there were gold coins. " I have found them 
at last. They are yours." Then she vanished. Many times 
the skipper went for the treasure, and by means of it grew rich. 
People wondered how he made his money, but his secret was not 
revealed until just before hg died. [Family Collection.] 

Near Penylan Well, Cardiff, a woman dressed in sombre 
garments used to be seen. She frequented the spot in the 
twilight, and often could be heard wailing or moaning. There 
was an old story prevalent in the first part of the nineteenth 
century that a Cardiff man once accosted her with " What 
dost thou seek ?" She told him she sought freedom, and that 
if he held her firmly by the waist and remained silent, her desire 
would be granted. He did as he was bidden, but a sharp pain 
cramped his arm and loosened his hold upon her. She fled, 
crying : " Two hundred years more before I shall be free !" If 
people drank of the water in this well, and then dropped a pin 
therein, they would get the wishes of the current year granted. 


Pwllhelig Pool, in the Vale of Glamorgan, was frequented by 
a lady robed in black, with a long veil and trailing garments. 
She was heard murmuring to herself, and sometimes moaning. 
In the eighteenth century people said that a house once stood 
on the spot now occupied by the pool. It was under a ban, and 
for the evil deeds of the owner the house went down in a gap 
or landslip, which afterwards, owing to the bursting of a spring, 
was filled with water. The lady was supposed to be the wife of 
the evil owner, and she was always hoping to find her lost money 
and jewels. Early in the nineteenth century a man undertook 
to speak to her. She did not answer, but only smiled sadly 
and wrung her hands, then vanished. 

Green Ladies. 

In contrast to the white lady and the black lady, there were 
several green ladies in Glamorgan. 

One of them appeared beside the eye-well in Marcross, near 
St. Donat's. She watched people carefully as they deposited 
rags on the thorn-bushes around the well. 

Caerphilly Castle, some miles to the north-east of Cardiff, had 
a green lady with " monstrous goggle-eyes " that " glared like 
great red moons " at people. She has been described as a small 
person with an " enormously large head," and wore green 
robes and a "long green veil floating over her shoulders." 
Sometimes she was alone, but occasionally she was accompanied 
by apparitions of the mailed and fierce De Clares, who might 
be seen flitting among the broken and gloomy ramparts of 
Caerphilly Castle. [C. D.] 

Half-way up the Garth Mountain, near Cardiff, a woman 
robed in green used to appear. She beckoned to men who 
passed, but they did not heed her. Two men at last ventured 
to listen to what she said, which was that she guarded hoards of 
gold, and could not move, but she wished to be released. They 
should have the treasure if they set her free. If they did not 
release her then, there would not be a man bom for the next 
hundred years who could set her free. The men whispered to 
each other, wondering if her tale were true. One of the men, 


looking down at her feet, said : '* True enough. Her slippers 
are covered with gold-dust." The woman suddenly vanished, 
but for a long time her sobs and wailings were heard. 

Craig-y-Llyn, opposite Glyn Neath, in the Vale of Neath, had 
a green lady in the seventeenth century. Every seven years 
she came and sat on one of the rocks, making chains and neck- 
laces of wild berries. The rowan or mountain-ash was her 
favourite tree, and she could be seen wandering about gathering 
an apronful of the bright red berries, which she conveyed to 
her favourite rock. Once when a man wished to follow her, but 
stood irresolute, she beckoned to him and smiled. He went 
towards her, and she gave him a handful of red rowan-berries. 
He thanked her, and put them in his pocket. Then there came 
a crash, and the lady disappeared. She wore a green robe and 
green jewels. The berries changed to gold coins. 

On the banks of the River Teifi, in Cardiganshire, a maiden 
robed in green wandered when the May flowers were in bloom. 
Her dark hair was plaited in long switches, and bound with 
bands of gold. She wore a golden girdle, from which was sus- 
pended a bunch of golden keys. One day two farmers saw her 
going down to the stream, washing her face and hands, and 
returning to a spot near a mound. Another day they saw her 
filling a tub with water from the river, and carrying it to her 
mound. The tub had broad hoops of gold around it. The 
men had not the courage to speak to her. It was said there 
was treasure hidden in the mound, and she had to guard it. 
[Family Collection.] 



CEREMONIES connected with the " black art " were for- 
merly common in Wales, where witches and wizards 
appear to have been fairly fortunate in evading 
the law. 

From the flotsam and jetsam of Welsh witch-lore the 
following details have been collected. Very aged people refuse 
information on this subject, but occasionally an old man or 
woman is willing to relate the stories of their youthful days as 
" a great secret/' and " not to be told to anybody." 

Vividly to my mind comes the memory of autumn days 
spent in farm-houses, where I gleaned all kinds of folk-lore from 
old farmers who sat in ancient armchairs, and from the aged 
dames who knitted stockings in the fireside corners of the 

The housewives were invariably typical Welshwomen, who 
" made ends meet " in curious ways. When I asked for " old 
stories " the candles were " douted " — that is, blown out — 
and the only light allowed was the fire-glow made by a huge log 
placed on the burning coals. Reverently, almost with apologies, 
the old women would answer questions, or relate their grand- 
father's or grandmother's experiences. The old men were 
bolder, and would plunge into the subject with considerable 

In this way I collected many particulars about witches, 
wizards, charms, and spells, and added them to those given me 
by my father, who had obtained stories from his father and 
grandfather, and other relatives. 

Beginning with witches and wizards, the power of " bewitch- 


Witches ; their rendezvous and revels 207 

ing " anybody appears to have been acquired in various 
uncanny ways in North and South Wales alike. 

The wizard and witch were known by their hooked noses, 
pointed chins, hanging under-lip, wry teeth, chapped finger- 
tips, and lump of flesh under the jaw or on some part of the 

They all had a knowledge of medicines and poisons. By the 
use of certain mixtures they quickened their power. In Wales 
it is commonly said that if you look steadily into the eyes of a 
witch you will see yourself " upside down," and these women 
have two pupils in their eyes. When they die their souls pass 
out of their bodies in the shape of a " great big moth." Their 
eyebrows meet over their noses. 

Some of the methods were as follows : 

1. The members or novices were marked by the prick of a 
needle while they renounced their Maker. 

2. They were compelled to kiss a toad. 

3. They must abjure God and promise to obey the commands 
of the devil. 

4. They were obliged to make a pretence of eating the bread 
of the Holy Sacrament, and place the piece in their pockets. 
Then, on leaving the church, they would meet a dog, to which 
they threw the bread. In this form they would sell their souls 
to the devil. 

5. They were taught to look upside down. 

6. A mark was printed on the body of the witch or wizard, 
and in that part they had no feeling ever afterwards. 

7. Their shoulders and feet were anointed with an uncanny 
salve, by which means they were able to make a broomstick do 
duty for a horse. 

8. They must drink out of a cow's hoof or a horse's 

An incantation used by witches and repeated in Welsh was 
translated as follows : 

*' In the devirs name 
We pour water among this meal [earth]. 
For long doing and ill heal 
We put it into the fire, 
That it may be burnt as we desire. 
It shall be burnt with our will, 
|i^ As any bubble upon a kill [kiln].** 


One of the witch rhymes or runes ran thus : 

** One, two, three, four, 
The devil is at the door. 
Make him welcome from floor to roof, 
Drink to him in a horse's hoof. 
Bring the cat and toad and bran ; 
Come to the feast, all ye who can. 
One, two, three, four, 
The devil is here, so no more !" 

[Family Collection.] 

The favourite haunts of Welsh witches were desolate places 
far from the busy centres of toil and traffic. 

In Anglesea they held their revels near the Druidical stones 
and beside the Roman watch-tower on Pen Caer Cybi, Holy 
Island. They were known to frequent the rocky islet of 
Ynys Gadam when making compacts with the devil. Lake 
Coron, near Aberffraw, was another tryst. 

In Carnarvonshire, Mynydd Mawr was celebrated as a haunt 
of the witches, who held high revel among the ruins of the 
British fortification that crowns the highest point of the 
summit. Penmaen Mawr, the Gliders, Snowdon, and many 
of the passes and ravines among the mountains, had the reputa- 
tion of being frequented by witches. 

In Denbighshire the Hiraethog Mountains, the Clwydian 
Range, the Berwyn Mountains, Lake Alwen, and other places, 
were patronized by them. 

Moel-y-Parc, in Flintshire ; Cader Idris and the shores of 
Bala Lake, in Merionethshire ; Plinlimmon, the Breiddin Hills, 
the Long Mountains, and the Kerry Hills, in Montgomeryshire, 
were reputed places of rendezvous for witches. 

South Wales was perhaps even more renowned than the 
North for these haunts of witches. The Breconshire Beacons ; 
the Preceley Mountains ; Radnor Forest ; the Black Mountains ; 
Craig-y-Llyn, near Glyn Neath ; the Pencaer Hills ; the shores 
of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthen, and Glamorgan ; and the moun» 
tains dividing Wales from Monmouthshire, have curious and 
weird stories connected with them. 

All the witches who held their revels in these localities 
followed their vocation in much the same way. 

They were said to anoint their bodies with uncanny salve, 
and to wear a girdle of snake-skin, and by these and other 


means they were enabled to bestride a churn-staff, a broom- 
handle, a distaff, ladle, shovel, pitchfork, or even the branch 
of a certain twig, and, muttering a spell, could take flight 
wherever they wished. 

An old story about a witch living near the Ogmore River, 
in Glamorgan, describes a man listening to the muttering of a 
woman, and instantly giving her chase, with the result that in 
the *' twinkling of an eye " he found himself on the top of the 
Garth Mountain, near Whitchurch. 

An old Welsh agricultural story was to the effect that the 
site of a dance or a revel of the witches could be traced in the 
early morning by a perfectly round track showing the print 
of cows' and goats' feet. Young witches in their novitiate 
had to nurture and " tend toads." Whoever chanced to see a 
witches' dance had only to breathe the name cf Christ, and all 
the wicked women would vanish. 

Pembrokeshire witches were accustomed to go to sea in egg- 
shells, because their foremothers came from Flanders by the 
same means, and settled in West Wales. The Flemings were 
credited with having imported a " new breed of witches," who 
were a terror to the South-West and West of Wales. 

Witches were attributed with much power and mischief. 
For this reason it was wise to please, and dangerous to offend, 
them. The following superstitions regarding Welsh witches 
have been collected from various parts of Wales : 

If a witch walks to the churn and says, " Here's a fine bit 
of butter coming," the cream will froth and not produce 

A woman should never spin or knit in or near a field, for the 
witches will tangle the yam. 

If a cow is " bewitched," put the milk into a crock over the 
fire and whip it with switches, or stir it with a clean and sharp 
sickle. The pain makes the witch appear. 

Never throw the combings of your hair into the roadway. 
If you do you will get into the power of witchcraft. 

On Nos Cyn Calan gauaf— that is, Hallowe'en— while conse- 
crated bells are ringing, witches are hindered from hurting 

If you throw any kind of knife with a cross burnt into the 



handle out into a storm of wind, you will soon discover the 
witch, or witches, who raised the tempest. This may account 
for the appearance of so many sickle, spade, fork, and billhook 
handles with crosses burnt into them. The agricultural districts 
• of Wales contain many specimens, and the present generation 
cannot tell why this custom is still kept up 

When witches prevent butter coming, put a knife under the 
chum. If a woman borrows soap and thanks you for it, she 
is a witch. She that makes butter on a Monday or Saturday is 
a " witch for sure and certain." In South Glamorgan women, 
upon being greeted with " Good-morning !" always responded 
in the same words ; then if a witch met them, they could not 
be hurt. A witch can never harm a cow that has white feet 
and a white stripe down its back. 

If a thing is bewitched, burn it, and immediately after- 
wards the witch will come to borrow something of you. If 
you give what she asks, she will go free ; if you refuse it, she 
will bum, and a mark will be on her body the next day. 

When the kettle is bewitched and will not boil, put under it 
sticks of three kinds of wood. If you talk about witches on a 
Wednesday or a Friday, they will brew mischief for you. Egg- 
shells should be broken up small or thrown into the fire, or the 
Pembrokeshire witches will hurt the people who ate the eggs 
and the hens that laid them. Pembrokeshire witches hurt the 
cattle by skimming the dew off the pastures. If you tie pieces 
of red ribbon or red rags around the tails of the cows the first 
time they are driven out to pasture, they cannot be be- 

A witch in the neighbourhood of Swansea made all the 
animals in a farmyard very ill. They were all put into an 
enclosure, and a barrier of hazel wand defied further molesta- 

White dimity window-curtains drawn across the window 
at night prevent witches peeping in. Let the witch have the 
wall or best side of the path. A limestone pebble with 
natural hole in it was suspended by a cord to the door to 
prevent witches' influence. This superstition was only known 
where limestone was to be found. The pebble often took the 
place of the horseshoe, or was used with it. Eat, if only a 


crumb, before you go out in the morning, or you will be 
bewitched. A hare's foot carried in the pocket defies 

Wear your body linen inside out if you would avoid the evil 
work of witches. When you meet a witch, turn your thumbs 
inward and close the fingers firmly upon them. 

When several people talking together suddenly became 
silent, they said " A witch is passing." Another expression 
was," Silence in the pig-market ! — a witch goes by." 

The baleful influences of the evil eye were at work, the 
people said, " in every town and village." A woman or man 
with two pupils to the eye, or a '* wall-eye," or with eyes of 
two colours, or a " squinting eye," or with any defect of that 
organ, was supposed to be able to fascinate and bewitch people. 
If any person felt conscious of possessing the evil eye, he or 
she was told to gaze intently upon a lifeless object, and thus 
prevent its baneful power. It was formerly said that if a 
person with the evil eye was the first to enter a shop or market 
in the morning, the sales would be slow and unsatisfactory 
for the day. Any person possessing eyes with a spiteful or 
angry expression had a " touch of the evil eye in them." 
Amulets of all kinds were worn as a protection against the 
evil eye. 

In the witch stories connected with Wales salt is mentioned 
as a safeguard against every kind of sorcery. If you had 
bread and salt in your pocket, you would be safe against 

People formerly said : " If you put a few leaves of ground 
ivy in your hat or coat, and go to church on the Nos Calan 
gauaf, you wUl soon see who are witches and wizards in the 

In Glamorgan, about fifty years ago, tailors were always 
associated with witchcraft. The ancestors of people living there 
asserted that tailors possessed the power to " bewitch " any- 
body if they wished. For this reason tailors always looked 
" lean and miserable." 

A twig of mountain-ash was carried in the left-hand pocket 
of a man, or in the left side of a woman's bodice, to keep 
apparitions and witches away. 



The penal degradation of a man into a beast, as taught in 
the old doctrine of transmigration, was probably responsible for 
the belief that the hare and the witch were synonymous. In all 
the old stories about witches, from one end of Wales to the other, 
the hare appears. It attended the uncanny revels of the witches' 
Sabbath, and when the weird sisters took flight upon being 
disturbed, they were supposed to ascend to the sky on broom- 
sticks, to navigate the sea in eggshells, and to travel the earth 
in the shape of hares. It is quite common to hear working 
men in the coimtry calling hares that cannot be caught *' the 
old witch." When a hare is very difficult to skin, the women 
say : " This one was a bad old witch " ; or when a hare is 
slow in being cooked, they say : " This old witch has many 
sins to answer for." 

A century ago, and even later, many people in Wales refused 
to eat hare even when given as a present, fearing they would 
be eating a witch. The peasantry in remote places will now 
refuse to eat hare, and when you ask them why, they say : 
*' We don't know ; but grandfather, and great-grandfather, 
and old, old [meaning great-great] grandfather, would never 
eat a hare himself, nor let anybody of the family eat 
of it." 

Yet they will eat rabbits. 

Hare-lipped people are supposed t6 have descended from 
persons bewitched in the past, or from ancestors who were very 
evil witches. The hare-lip wa3 formerly called " the mark of 
the witch." 

Fifty years ago it was generally believed that witches and 
wizards could assume the shape of a hare or a fox. A hare of 
twenty years was supposed to become a witch, and a witch of 
eighty turns into a hare again. 

In all parts of Wales similar stories of a mysterious hare that 
baffled the best hounds were told. Many localities had the 
reputation of providing a good day's sport, but no capture^ 
Huntsmen declared that these hares would continually baflBle 
the hounds. 

Some stories describe farmers going forth to kill the objection- 
able hare, with the result that the animal could not be slain 
right off ; but the men were able to track her course by the 


drops of blood which fell from her wounded body. In this way 
they traced the hare into the house of the witch, who had thrown 
herself on the bed, and, transformed into her woman shape, was 
groaning with agony. 

Another witch who assumed the hare shape was discovered 
by means of a maimed ankle, which the huntsmen said she 
received by falUng down a quarry when the hounds were 
after her. 

In a lonely part of South Glamorgan a certain hare baffled 
the hounds for many years. The animaFs head was described 
as being quite grey with age, and it was stated that she had lost 
all her teeth. She was seen frequently early in the morning 
running among the cows in the meadows, and the farmers knew 
she was a witch because the yield of milk was always less when 
the hare was about. After years of chasing, both by hounds 
and huntsmen, the hare was slain. Because the people thought 
the hare was a woman transformed into animal shape, they gave 
the body a " decent burial "; and it was asserted that from the 
moment the hare was killed the witch disappeared, and was 
never again seen in the district. 

A butcher Uving near the sea at Cadoxton-juxta-Barry, 
in South Glamorgan, was reported to be the son of a witch. 
Whenever he wished to buy stock of the neighbouring farmers 
the latter were obliged to sell to him, or the animals would 
surely die. 

An old woman, probably the mother of the butcher, could 
turn herself into a hare at will. When in this state the hounds 
could not catch her. One day three gentlemen took three grey- 
hounds, and, seeing the hare which they thought was a witch, 
they hunted the animal through the fields and into the house. 
By some means the hare's foot was caught in the doorway, and 
the animal suddenly vanished. Next day the witch was very 
lame, and people said she had a hare's foot for life. 

Stories of three-legged hares come from Mid- Wales and 

Transformation of witches into the shape of a cat appears in 
the North and South of Wales. 

A Merionethshire farmer on his wedding morning threw a 
stone at a cat, and before nightfall he was indisposed. He 


lived only three months after his marriage, because, as the 
people said, he had struck a witch in the form of a cat. 

A Cardiganshire story describes a cat's left paw being cut off 
by a tailor, who cruelly used his shears for the purpose. The 
next morning his wife appeared without her left hand. 

Transformation into the shape of a wild goose was known in 
some parts of Wales. 

Not far from Porthcawl, in Glamorgan, an old woman who 
had the reputation of being a witch was supposed to take flight 
occasionally in the form of a grey goose. She disturbed the 
operations of sportsmen, who declared that they had a bad 
day whenever the grey goose appeared. This grey goose 
frequented the solitary sand-dunes between Porthcawl and 

In North Glamorgan witches sometimes took the form of a 
fox. The animal baffled the hounds, and led huntsmen into 
dangerous places. Neither mask nor brush would the hunts- 
men have when the witch led them. 

The mischief of witches is well known, but a few instances 
of their work may be interesting, as having been obtained from 
aged people who were eyewitnesses of the deeds. 

A farmer's wife in the Vale of Glamorgan was putting cream in 
the chum ready for butter-making when a local witch looked in. 
The housewife immediately ordered her away. The witch 
" cast her eye " upon the chum, and went silently out. From 
that moment the butter was exceedingly " slow in coming." 
At last the good woman saw that it was impossible to make 
butter. Presently she remembered that in the lane leading to 
the woods not far from her house the hated witches' butter grew. 
This is a fungus growing on decayed wood. To thrust a pin or 
skewer into this fungus was supposed to be an excellent remedy 
for undoing the mischief of witches. But the goodwife of this 
story heated a poker to a white heat, and with it destroyed 
the witches' butter, thereby breaking the spell. As the butter 
melted groans and the sound of flapping wings could be heard. 
The farmer's wife then returned to the chum, and the butter 
soon came. [Family Collection.] 

A notorious witch living in 1859 took a pair of boots to a local 
shoemaker for repairs She wished to get them done as quickly 


as possible. The shoemaker said he would not be able to 
complete them in the time named. The witch went out mutter- 
ing revenge. Ten minutes later the shoemaker tried to move 
from his bench, but failed. " It was just as if somebody had 
glued him to it," said my informant, who saw the man in his 
uncomfortable predicament. Before the shoemaker could move 
the people had to send for the witch. She refused to come, but 
after keeping the man in durance from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. she 
released him. [Family Collection.] 

There were formerly many clever but eccentric men in Wales, 
who had the reputation of being wizards and f amiUar with some 
kind of legerdemain. A few of these> some connected with the 
North and others with the South of the Principahty, will serve 
to illustrate all. These men healed sicknesses of body and 
mind. They foretold people's deaths, cured diseases by means 
of an unknown and mysterious art, and were skilful surgeons. 
A few of these men never attained more than mediocrity in this 
respect, while others were reputed conjurers. 

The most remarkable man of the South was the renowned 
Dr. Harris of Cwrt-y-Cadno. He Hved in the Vale of Towy, 
Carmarthenshire. He was popularly known as the " Dyn Hys- 
bys," which, Uterally translated, means the " manifest or evi- 
dent person or man " — in other words, a man capable of mani- 
festations. Several stories were told about him. About forty- 
five or fifty years ago a man of Pontardulais lost ten poimds, 
which was taken from his house by some person or persons 
unknown. Every effort to recover the money failed, and at 
last the poor man who had lost all his hard earnings went 
in despair to Dr. Harris. The Dyn Hysbys, after a few 
questions, said that the money would be found in a heap of 
rags, concealed in a cupboard, beside the kitchen fire, while the 
thief was his own relative. The man returned home and 
immediately foimd the money. 

Dr. Harris appears to have been skilful in thought-reading 
and crystal-gazing. A well-authenticated instance was the 
following occurrence : Two men Uving in a rural district went 
to Swansea to sell com. On the way home the men in the 
waggon fell asleep. In the waggon were empty sacks, while in 
the pocket of one of the sleepers was the money obtained by the 


sale of the com. The men awoke to find both the money 
and the sacks gone. After a fruitless search, they went to 
consult Dr. Harris. The latter then led the men into a room 
and placed a round mirror before them. He told them to look 
at it, and instead of seeing their own reflection, they saw the 
roadway, their own figures in sleeping attitude, and a neighbour, 
who was far above suspicion, taking possession of the empty 
sacks and money ! 

On some occasions Dr. Harris persisted in marking the 
thief, so that the person could be known immediately. For 
this reason many people objected, fearing the mark on the 
culprit would be permanent, and prove that they had consulted 
the Dyn Hysbys. An illustration of this happened to a man of 
Glamorgan. A farmer living not far from Neath sold some 
cattle in the local fair, and went home with the purchase-money, 
amounting to about one hundred pounds. In the fair and after 
it the old man indulged freely in ardent spirits, and soon after 
reaching home went to bed. The next morning he could not find 
the moAey. After searching the house and making inquiries in 
Neath without success, the farmer, three days later, consulted 
Dr. Harris of Cwrt-y-Cadno. The doctor told him that he would 
cause the thief to keep his bed for twelve months as a punish- 
ment ; but he would find his bag containing the hundred pounds 
hanging from a nail behind his own stable door. The farmer 
returned, and immediately found his lost bag. A few days later 
a neighbouring farmer was seized with illness, which became so 
serious that he was confined to his bed for twelve months. The 
farmer had suspicions, but said nothing, because the money had 
been restored. Three years afterwards the thief had a fatal 
illness, and just before his death confessed that after stealing 
the money he had no rest for two nights, because the Dyn 
Hysbys came to him in his sleep, awakened him, and urged him 
to return the stolen money to its rightful owner. Relatives of 
the persons connected with the foregoing narratives are still 

If there was anything greatly disUked by Dr. Harris of Cwrt- 
y-Cadno it was meanness and cheatery. Not far from Car- 
marthen town a man of considerable means lived, but he was 
of a very selfish disposition, and almost begrudged the money 


for food. He once asked two friends, with the Dyn Hysbys, to 
accompany him into his garden. The party went, and were 
soon admiring the profusion and quality of the fruit, especially 
of the apples, pears, and plums. All their admiration passed 
unnoticed by their owner, who did not offer so much as a pear 
to his visitors. The D}^ Hysbys challenged him to give them 
at least one pear each to prove their quaUty. " They are not 
fit for picking," said the old man. " Nonsense," said the Dyn 
Hysbys. " Those up there against the wall will soon drop." 
" They are as hard as iron," said his host. " Try them," said 
the Dyn Hysbys, placing a ladder against the wall, pretending 
he would himself ascend and prove the truth of his assertion. 
" No, no," said his host ; " I'll go myself." He ascended the 
ladder, tried the pears, and exclaimed : " I told you so. They 
are as hard as iron." Then he prepared to descend the ladder. 
He could not, for his feet refused to reach the next rung, and 
his hands were glued to the top one. At first he thought it was 
nervousness, and he began to shake the ladder, but he could not 
move an inch. Presently he began to fume and fret, but at 
length he started swearing, to the amusement of his visitors, 
who laughed immoderately. Then he called the Dyn Hysbys 
all the bad names in the Welsh vocabulary. There are not 
many, it is true, but they are remarkably forceful. There he 
remained for a few hours until his voice was worn out by the 
repetition of various epithets, which grew milder, and at last 
became pathetically imploring. Uttering a few words, the Dyn 
Hysbys released him, saying : " That's how all should serve 
thee for thy selfishness !" The old man never forgot his tor- 
mentor, but in fear he always sent a hamper of the best selected 
fruit to Dr. Harris every year afterwards. 

Another story of this wonderful man was to the effect that 
when he was visiting a relative in Swansea, his hostess asked him 
to order and pay for a joint of meat. When the sum was named, 
he exclaimed at hearing the cost, which he regarded as ex- 
cessive. The butcher went to the end of the shop to place the 
meat in the basket, and while he did so the Dyn Hysbys wrote 
a spell on a piece of paper, and concealed it in a crack of the 
desk, after which he went to his relative's house. The Dyn 
Hysbys had not long left the butcher's shop when the man's 


wife heard a curious noise. It was of somebody dancing, 

stepping, and singing in the shop. Thinking a drunken man 

might have entered, she went in, and, to her horror, saw her 

husband capering boisterously and singing. This is what he 

sang : 

" Eight and six for meat ! 
What a wicked cheat T' 

She called upon him to be quiet, but it was of no avail, for in a 
moment she gave a hop towards her husband, and, joining her 
hands with his, began dancing and singing as wildly as he. 
The servant came in, and she was seized with the same trouble, 
and after her followed the errand-boy and the butcher's two 
children. Six individuals were now dancing and singing : 

" Eight and six for meat ! 
What a wicked cheat V* 

By-and-by the noise surprised passers-by, and the neigh- 
bours, many of whom entered to see what the uproar was about. 
Everybody laughed right heartily at such a ludicrous scene. 
At last somebody asked if the Dyn Hysbys had been there, and 
the butcher nodded his head, whereupon the clever man was 
sent for. He came, removed the paper from the desk, and the 
dancing and singing ceased. " That will teach you not to over- 
charge honest people again.*' [A, B, and Family Collection,] 

Another Dr. Harris, popularly known as Abe Biddle, and 
equally clever as the Dyn Hysbys, his namesake of Cwrt-y- 
Gadno, in Carmarthenshire, lived at Wemdew, in Pembroke- 
shire. He was a specialist in certain diseases, and well known 
beyond his native county. In the early part of the nineteenth 
century the name of Dr. Harris, Wemdew, was a household 
word all around Fishguard, Goodwick, and the coastline for 
his medical skiU. His name, Abe Biddle, the magician and 
master of all occult subjects, was at once a source of service 
in cases of theft and a terror to the wrong-doer, and certainly 
a cause of fear to naughty children who refused to obey their 

There are many stories told of him, and particularly of his 
discovery of theft, which, if true, would have been a boon to 
modem society when valuable jewels mysteriously disappear. 


Abe Biddle was once called upon to pay a visit to an English 
lady of rank wjio was staying at the seat of a wealthy Pem- 
brokeshire family. The doctor is described as having been 
taU, slender, and somewhat lanky, with large, deep-set eyes, 
long and shaggy white hair, and a dreamy or preoccupied 
manner; but when roused he was fiery and commanding. 
His voice was weU modulated, and his manner particularly 
courteous. As a doctor and an occultist he was much respected. 
When Abe was introduced to the English Countess, she was 
agreeably surprised to find, as she afterwards said, " such a 
perfect gentleman and remarkable magician." She described 
the jewels she had lost, and declared they were quite safe in 
her travelling-bag when she left a certain mansion early in 
the dawn of the previous day. Abe Biddle opened his very 
professional-looking bag, and therefrom drew forth a good- 
sized mirror, which he put to stand on a table. He asked the 
Countess to look well into the mirror, and tell him what she 
saw. Turning a chair, he requested the lady to be seated. 
When she had ** composed herself," Abe asked what she saw. 
She replied : " I see nothing but a mist like steam from a 
boiler." " Look again," said Abe. She looked, and said : " I 
see a mist, vapour, clouds . . . they are rolling away. And now 
I see a woman in a dress of white brocade." " Do you know 
her ?" asked Abe. " Her back is turned to me," answered the 
Countess. The doctor told her to pause and close her eyes 
for a few minutes. The Countess did so, and looked again. 
She saw the figure slowly turning round, and presently her face 
was plainly visible. To her surprise, she saw some of her 
jewels in her hands, others upon her neck and in her hair. 
The Countess recognized in the lady a personal friend of her 
hostess, from whom she had recently taken leave. Abe Biddle 
was asked to make investigations, which he did with consider- 
able tact. The result was the restoration of the jewels to 
their rightful owner. The lady who had appropriated the 
gems was a sleep-walker and kleptomaniac. 

Abe Biddle was a very clever illusionist, and could alarm 
and surprise people. 

On one occasion some clergymen who had been attending 
important services in the district assembled in the vicarage 


for supper. This would be about the end of the eighteenth 
century, when it was the custom of visitors, male and female, 
to tell any quaint old tale that came within their knowledge. 
Conversation turned upon the white art, or astrology; the 
black art, or magic and necromancy; and conjuration, or 
• illusion. Some of the friends present, knowing Abe Biddle's 
repute, wished he would enter into the discussion, but he 
remained silent. By-and-by he quitted the room, and returned 
with three small rings, which he placed on the floor. He 
hurriedly left the room, taking care to quietly lock the door. 
Immediately everybody's eyes were fixed on the rings. In 
the midst of each of these a fly suddenly appeared, and began 
buzzing. These flies grew and developed into hornets. The 
visitors wondered what was going to happen, when the hornets 
increased and multiplied, until the room was filled with them. 
The terror-stricken people cried out, and Abe Biddle opened 
the door, through which the hornets disappeared, and the 
clerics were convinced of the magician's power. 

One of the well-known men of mystery in the North was 
Robin Ddu Ddewin, or Black Robin the Wizard, a native of 
Baradwys, Anglesea. It was said he could do many uncanny 

On one occasion he went to a farmer to beg a small quantity 
of wool. His request was refused. On his way home he 
entered a field belonging to the farmer, and was heard counting 
the cattle and horses, which numbered six in all. Before 
midnight the animals were dead. 

He could be kind as well as malicious. A poor old woman 
lived in a solitary cottage. She was half-witted and despised 
by her neighbours. One day Robin found her crying because 
the people had refused her the privilege of " leasing," or glean- 
ing, and the boys pelted her with lumps of earth or turf. 
" They shall rue for it," said Black Robin. Two days later 
the farmers who had refused to allow the old woman to glean, 
and the boys who pelted her with earth and turf, were taken 
ill. Fever held them in bondage, and two out of the number 
died. Then the people said that " Black Robin had been at 

♦ William Davies (Gwilym Glan Ogwy). 


One day Black Robin met a farmer carrying hay. The 
wizard begged a *' fork-load " of it for his merlyn, or mountain 
pony. The farmer sharply refused, and proceeded downhill 
slowly with his waggon and horses. He had not gone far 
before the horses went down on their knees, and the load of 
hay fell over into the road. Every effort to get the horses on 
their feet failed, and, in despair, the farmer implored Robin 
to " undo the spell." For a time Robin refused, but when 
he thought the farmer had been sufficiently punished, he yielded. 
The horses were soon on their feet again, and the farmer gave 
Robin as much hay as he required. 

Huw Llwyd, who lived in the reign of James I., was re- 
nowned as a wizard astrologer and magician. He was a native of 
Merionethshire, and at a place called Cymorthjm, near Festiniog, 
on the River Cynfael, where there are some beautiful cascades, 
stands a rock known as Huw Llwyd's pulpit. From that 
rocky rostrum, beside a deep, dark pool, the magician was 
accustomed to deliver his nocturnal addresses and incantations. 
When Huw Llwyd was in the zenith of his power, Edmund 
Pryse, Archdeacon of Merioneth, proved himself a rival master 
of the black and white arts. It is recorded in Welsh lore that 
these " two of a trade " failed to agree, and quarrels arose 
between the " masters." 

The following story is told about Maentwrog Fair day. 

In an ancient hostelry, while music and dancing were the 
order of the evening, Huw Llwyd merrily passed the time with 
his convivial companions. 

It chanced that Archdeacon Pryse passed, and, seeing him. 
Huw put his head through the lattice, and invited the church 
dignitary to come in and share the fun. The Archdeacon, who 
always sternly denounced convivial assemblies, very indig- 
nantly refused the invitation. At the same time he was not 
above exercising his occult powers. In a few minutes he caused 
two large horns to grow one on each side of Huw Llwyd's head, 
so that the latter could not be withdrawn from the window. 
In this position Huw had to remain for many hours, until the 
Archdeacon was pleased to release his rival in legerdemain. 
Huw was not slow in revenge. He knew that the Archdeacon 
would be obliged to pass the old water-mill on his way to his 


house, Ty-du. Huw secreted himself in the mill, and it is 
gravely asserted that he commissioned two demons to seize 
the Archdeacon as he passed by. These demons dragged the 
Archdeacon under the large trough which conveyed water to 
turn the big wheel, while another let the water on. In this 
way the Archdeacon was drenched to the skin, and sent home 
in a pitiable condition. 

Another story describes Huw Llwyd at midnight near the 
deep, dark pool beside his pulpit at Cwmorthyn, summon- 
ing numbers of fiends to his presence, and commanding them 
to go forth on his missions. His nocturnal incantations were 
weird and sometimes terrible, and if anybody offended him, 
the revenge was often severe. A farmer who lived not many 
miles from Festiniog once disturbed Huw in his incantations, 
and it is stated that this greatly offended the wizard, who 
pronounced a curse upon the farm and all that was "on or 
in it." For a whole year disaster attended all operations 
upon the farm. The harvests were failures, the cattle pined 
away, the flocks were disturbed by foxes, the fruitage was 
scarce, and iUness affected the farmer's household. At last 
the offender was obliged to go and beg Huw Llwyd's forgive- 
ness, which he obtained, and all things came right again. 

Huw Llwyd was a poet and soldier in the army of James I., 
and he is said to have held an important commission, and to 
have served on the Continent. He was also a poet of consider- 
able renown. In an encounter between Archdeacon Pryse 
near Festiniog, Huw quickly prostrated the church dignitary, 
but both became friends again. Both could foretell future 
events, and their counsel was much sought after by the in- 
habitants of the northern parts of the Principality. But while 
the Archdeacon pronounced the magical incantations, and 
practised the black art in his study, Huw Llwyd uttered 
his in the spot where his pulpit is still to be seen. Huw 
Llwyd died in 1620, and Archdeacon Edmund Pryse of 
Merioneth wrote an elegy upon his celebrated rival's death. 

A few days before Huw Llwyd died he called his daughter 
to his side, and begged her to throw aU his books of magic and 
black art into the Llyn Pont, Rhyddu, " the lake by the bridge 
of the black ford." The daughter much desired to preserve 


the books, which were of considerable value, and contained her 
father's notes upon astronomical lore and the medicinal 
virtues of certain herbs. They included astrological calcula- 
tions " second to none in the world," says the old story. 
Thrice the daughter went forth with the books of astrology 
known as the " white art " and magic, or the " black art," and 
thrice concealed them. But Huw Llwyd declared he " could 
not die in peace " until the books were thrown into the lake. 
Once more the daughter went forth, and this time threw the 
books into the Llyn. Just as the volumes reached the surface 
of the water a mysterious hand was seen to be uplifted from 
the depths of the Llyn. It carefully grasped the books, and 
drew them into the black depths of the water. Then Huw 
Llwyd died in peace.* His grandson was Morgan Llwyd, the 
great Puritan preacher of Gwynedd, who was buried at Wrex- 
ham in July, 1659. It is said that Morgan Llwyd inherited 
his grandfather's gift of being able to foretell important events 
with the greatest possible accuracy. Huw Llwyd wrote an 
epitaph upon himself. It appeared in The Greal, a Welsh 
magazine published in London, 1805. 

* Rev. Elias Owen, '* Welsh Folk-lore,*' pp. 252, 253. 



CHARMS for healing and other purposes and spells of 
various kinds were popular in Wales so late as thirty 
years ago, and even in the present day there are several 
survivals of the old-time beliefs. 

Doctors of the old school who failed, or had no patience to 
cure or find out the complaints from which their patients 
suffered, invariably recommended the persons to a noted 
" healer/' by which they meant charmer. Some of these men — 
and women/too — had aimost miracle-working powers, and they 
were much sought after by people of all classes 

The power to heal by charms or other mysterious or secret 
agency was inherited. The gift passed from father to son, 
or mother to daughter, and was said never to leave the family. 
Then, again, the healing charm had to be gratuitously done, 
or the virtue would leave the charmer. Money was never 
taken for a work, but the person who had received temporary 
relief or cure was expected to send a gift in kind. In some 
instances a money gift was accepted, but never a fee. The 
secrets of the art were seldom divulged, but from time to time 
the methods of the healer have been discovered. 

As a rule, the healer who used charms was the seventh 
son or seventh daughter in a direct line without alteration 
of sex. They could heal all kinds of hurts with a stroke of 
the hand. They could cure wens at the throat and disperse 
tumours. They had charm remedies for cancer, consumption, 
and a variety of diseases, but kept them very secretly. 
Headache was cured in the following way : The charmer, or 
doctor, fiUed one bowl with cold water and one with melted 
tallow. The patient's head was held in the water for a few 



seconds, while the tallow was poured into the water through 
a carding comb. This process was repeated thrice, then the 
water was poured on the nearest elder-tree and the cold tsdlow 
was thrown into the fire. Immediately afterwards, the 
headache was cured. 

For convulsions in children or adults the cure was wrought 
by concealing a horseshoe under their pillows. 

If a child was sick, its godfather was called to carry it three 
times up and down the room. This was a " certain cure." 

For children who were late in learning to walk it was cus- 
tomary to make them creep under a blackberry bramble. 

For ague the sufferer was to go silently, without crossing 
water, to a hollow willow-tree. He was to breathe into the 
hole three times, then stop the aperture as quickly as possible, 
and go home without looking round or speaking a word. The 
ague would be immediately cured. The same affliction was 
cured if the sufferer stuck an elder branch in the ground and 
bade the ague depart. 

A posthumous child, by putting its hands on a tumour, 
could charm it away. 

If a child born with a tooth or teeth in its mouth passed its 
saliva over the bite or scratch made by any animal, the sore 
would be thus charmed away. 

For hiccough the sufferer was advised to drink out of a mug 
or jug over the handle. 

For nettle stings a few leaves of the field dock are taken, 
spat upon, and rubbed into the affected part, while the person 
says : " In dock, out nettle.** 

Sprained arms and legs were cured by the following charm : 
A long length of black yarn was made into a kind of thick cord 
or rope. Nine knots were made at equal distances on this and 
bound around the injured limb. The person binding had to say : 

*' Bone to bone, skin to skin ; 
Satan go out, Christ come in." 

The same spell words were used for dislocations. 

Earth lifted with the right hand from under the right foot 
of a child was supposed to heal sores. 

A curious spell for healing purposes was translated from a 
kind of imperfect Welsh in a village near Bridgend, Glamorgan. 



The translator could not tell for what it was used, but he 
remembered the rhyme, which was sometimes said in Welsh, 
and often in English — thus : 

*' God the Father down did ride, 
Quick and fast the fork He tried. 
He lifted worms that were out of sight — 
One was black, the other was white ; 
One was mottled, one was red ; 
Soon the worms were killed and dead. 
Heal, O Lord, as soon as said V* 

[Family Collection.] 

Gout was charmed by the patient being put into a bed or 
bag filled with barley, and over him an old sheepskin would be 
thrown, and the " sweating '* caused thereby was efficacious. 

Erysipelas was charmed by means of sparks struck from 
stone or steel against the face — a very painful and highly 
dangerous cure, and probably seldom attempted 

Earache was charmed in a woman by means of a man's 
breeches wrapped round her head. A man, for the same malady, 
wrapped around his head a woman's flannel petticoat or stocking. 

To charm boils, " squeeze them with crossed knives " ! 

A charm for haemorrhage of any kind was worked thus : 
The person who exercised the charm dipped his or her finger 
in blood, and made the sign of the cross upon the patient's 
forehead. The charmer then recited nine times the following 
words from Ezekiel : " And when I passed by thee and saw 
thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou 
wast in thy blood, Live ; yea, I said unto thee, when thou wast 
in thy blood. Live." 

Apoplexy was charmed by a Sharpened hatchet placed on 
the threshold of the sufferer. 

Whooping-cough was charmed in this way : A small lock of 
hair was cut from the back of the head of the person suffering 
from the cough. It was then placed sandwich fashion between 
two pieces of bread and butter. This was given to a dog, and 
then the animal was driven out of the house. The whooping- 
cough would then leave the sufferer. 

Epilepsy was overcome by a curious charm. When a grave 
was reopened, people stripped a piece of metal from an old 
coffin. It was cut in circular shape, a hole was bored in it. 


and this amulet was worn suspended from a ribbon around the 
neck. The metal should drop as low as the heart. 

The following charm was recited as a cure for bums and 
scalds : " Three little angels came from East and West. 
Each one tried the fire and ice to test. In frost, out fire ! In 
the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." While 
repeating this the reciter described a circle with the index- 
finger of the right hand. Three circles were made from right to 
left, going " wildershins," or contrary to the sun's motion. 
Nine circles in all were made, and then the reciter would 
blow three times on the affected part. [Family Collection,] 

For toothache several charms were used. In Carmarthen- 
shire and West Wales generally the charm ran thus : 

** Jesus was passing by one day, and saw Peter sitting under 
a sycamore-tree, grievously tormented with the toothache. 
And Jesus said : ' What aileth thee, Peter ?' And Peter 
answered and said : ' Lord, I am grievously tormented with 
the toothache.' And Jesus said : * Arise, follow Me ; thou 
shalt be tormented by the toothache no more.' And imme- 
diately the toothache left him." 

This was written on a piece of notepaper, made into a square 
and sealed. The name of the sufferer was written across the 
back of the paper, which was not to be opened. 

Another charm for the same ailment ran as follows : 

*' Peter sat on a marble stone. 
Jesus came to him all alone. 
'What's up, Peter?* 
' The toothache, my Lord.' 

" ' Rise up, Peter, and be cured of this pain, and all who 
carry these few lines for My sake.' " [A, B, and C. D,] 

These words were written on a piece of paper, folded neatly, 
and kept on the person in a safe place, and so long as it was 
worn, the toothache did not trouble the patient. 

A collier from one of the valleys of South Wales, only 
recently, declared that his fellow-workmen passed this charm 
on from one to the other, and with almost immediate relief. 
In the present day the charm is written on a piece of paper, 
enclosed in an envelope, and sealed. 

For jaundice the sufferer was advised to get by stealth the 



grease-pot of a carrier or any wheelwright. If he looked for 
ten minutes into it, the malady would pass away. 

The old charm for jaundice was to put a gold coin at the 
bottom of a pewter mug, fill it with clear mead, and ask the 
patient to look into it without drinking any. This was to be 
done while repeating the Lord's Prayer nine times over without 
a mistake. 

For a peculiar and complicated kind of liver complaint the 
following formula was carried out. Three visits had to be 
paid to the healer, and one must be on Sunday. The healer 
would on the first occasion fill a teacup with oatmeal, then 
cover it with a linen cloth, and tie it up as a pudding would be 
tied, so that the meal would not escape. The healer then 
applied the cup to the right and left sides, the stomach, the 
back, and between the shoulders. This he did nine times, 
walking round the patient, but the cup was not applied between 
the shoulders on the second occasion. During each applica- 
tion of the cup a portion of Scripture was repeated sotto voce 
by the healer. It was from St. Matthew (xv. 22-26). . The 
healer began with the words : " And behold a woman," ending 
with, " cast it to dogs.*' This portion of Scripture was slowly 
recited nine times. After the ninth application of the cup 
the cloth was removed from the oatmeal. If the disease was 
slight, there would be a large crack in the oatmeal. If the 
case was very bad, part of the oatmeal would have disappeared. 
In extreme cases all the meal would disappear. After the 
third time of charming the patient recovered. This charm 
was considered unfailing in working a cure. 

A bone-setting charm ran as follows : 

" Lord, set it right again, right ! 
Joint to joint and joint to joint I 
Marrow to marrow, bone to bone, 
So that this man can stand alone. 
Blood shall arise with skin to skin. 
Lord, set him right without and within V* 

[CD. and Family Collection.] 

For severe pain in the head or colic the charmer grasped 
the affected part, pressed it tightly, and exclaimed : " In the 
name of God, of Jesus Christ, and the Mother of Christ I seize 
thee, I squeeze thee. Go thou to rest in the chest where the 


Lord God placed thee." This was repeated nine times in 

For the smallpox the charm words were : " In the name of 
the Lord I command thee to depart out of his skin, out of his 
bones, his blood, his veins, his joints, and all his limbs. Go 
thou to the Red Sea, and join Pharaoh and all his hosts." 
[C. D.-\ 

When epidemics assailed the people, the charmer would 
repeat the following incantation : 

*' God the Lord went over the land ; 
Ninety sicknesses came from the sand. 
Said the Lord to the ninety sick : 

* Whither go ye ? Answer Me quick.' 
Then said the ninety of the sand : 

* To take men's health we walk the land. 
To hurt their limbs and fester their skin, 
To shake them well without and within.' 
Then spake the Lord : * To the elder-bush go 
That grows where the healing waters flow ; 
See that ye do this thing just now. 

And pull the bush down bough for bough. 
Name the diseases ye bring from the sand. 
Leave God the Lord to walk the land.' " 

[Family Collection.] 

Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire were renowned for the 
healer who could charm away diseases. Glamorgan had several 
who exercised their arts in the nineteenth century. Some of 
the healers who did not resort to charms for the cure of com- 
plaints had marvellous magnetic power, and they often cured 
people by merely passing their hands over the affected part. 
The late celebrated Dr. Price of Llantrisant, Glamorgan, had 
marvellous magnetic powers, and was known to cure people 
by a touch of the hand and by the strong power of his will. 

An old lady near Swansea had the same power, and she 
exercised it with much success. 

The late Dr. Harris of Cwrt-y-Cadno worked many cures 
by magnetic influence and will-power, and there are still, as 
people call them, " men in the West," who are renowned as 
bone-setters, healers, and makers of remedies which are secrets 
to them and their heirs for ever. 

In South Glamorgan and West Pembrokeshire a curious 
remedy was used for the removal of warts. A living snail with 


a black shell was rubbed on each wart while the person repeated 
the following rhyme : 

** Wart, wart, on the snail's shell black, 
Go away soon, and never come back/' 

The snail was then put on the branch of a tree or bramble, 
and fixed thereon by means of as many prickly thorns as there 
were warts. When the snail has rotted the warts disappear. 

For the cure of warts there were several charms. One was 
to nail a brown snail to the doorpost with a wooden hammer. 
As the snail dries up the wart fades away. Another remedy 
was to fix your eyes in the waxing moon and say three times, 
" May the moon increase, and may my suffering cease." 

Many of the healing wells cured warts. The method of 
obtaining a cure was to stick a pin in each wart, and then 
throw the pins into the well. The warts soon vanished. In 
some places a man undertook, for a small consideration, to 
" carry the warts into another country." A blacksmith in 
Cardiff used to count people's warts, mark their number on 
his hat, and carry them away over Rumney Bridge into Mon- 
mouthshire, a place less than a mile from his smithy. 

A Porthcawl blacksmith had a great reputation for removing 
warts. He merely examined the warts, passed his hand over 
them, and told the person not to look at his hands until the 
next morning. By that time the warts had vanished. 

In several parts of Wales a toad was impaled on a stick, and 
the warts were rubbed on the creature. As the toad died, the 
warts disappeared. Elderberry leaves, plucked at midnight 
and burnt, will drive warts away. 

An old woman said : " Steal a piece of fat bacon, bury it in 
the garden, and the warts will soon go." 

A charm for driving rats away bore the following inscription : 

"R . A . T . S. 

A . R . S . T. 

T . S . R . A 

S . T . A . R" 

This was placed in the mouth of the king of the rats, although 
how that creature was caught is not explained. The letters 
read every way the same. [Family CollectionA 

A remedy against drinking habits was composed of the lungs 


of a hog, which had to be roasted. If a man ate these after 
fasting all night, he would not be drunk the next day, no 
matter how much he drank. The broken bones of a sheep's 
skull carried in the pocket was a charm against disease. 

The Arch-Druid wore upon his girdle the Crystal of Augury, 
encased in gold. It was part of the Druidical regalia.* '* As 
this crystal sparkled or grew dim, the plaintiff or defendant, 
the prosecutor or prisoner, shook in his shoes. "f 

In later times mounted or unmounted crystal balls were 
used as charms against the evil eye. These balls were some- 
times polished and unset, or set in gold, silver, or metal. 
They varied in size and shape. An old Welshman told me 
he remembered crystal balls being used for curing sickness 
and disease in man and beast. Water was poured over one 
of these stones, and afterwards given to the cattle and sheep 
to drink. Sometimes the stone was placed in a bowl of water, 
and the latter was afterwards distributed among people who 
suffered from any mental or physical malady. People came 
long distances to the owners of these crystal balls — for water 
for their flocks and herds, or for maladies that attacked their 
relatives and friends. If the stone was lent to anybody, the 
person going to fetch it must not speak nor sit, nor enter any- 
body's house, nor be found outside his own house after sunset. 
An incantation or prayer was uttered before the stone was 
dipped in the water. The following translation of the incanta- 
tion in Welsh was given me : 

*' O thou stone of Might and Right, 
Let me dip thee in the water — 
In the water of pure spring or of wave, 
In the name of St. David, 
In the name of the twelve Apostles, 
In the name of the Holy Trinity, 
And of Michael and all the angels. 
In the name of Christ and Mary His mother ! 
Blessings on the clear shining stone ! 
Blessings on the clear pure water ! 
A healing of all bodily ills 
On man and beast aUke !" [A, B.] 

A Stone of this description belonged to a family in South 
Glamorgan. It is now supposed to be in America, whereto 
the owner emigrated about 1845. 

♦ Meyrick, " Costumes," p. 28. t " Welsh Sketches," p. 21. 


Some of these crystal balls appear to have been closely 
connected with the fate of a family. While the crystal 
remained whole, the owner would be lucky; but from the 
moment a flaw appeared in it or it was broken, the 
fortunes of the family would begin to decline. Before a 
death in the owner's family the crystal became damp and 

Various kinds of stones besides the crystals were held in 
great esteem for their curative powers. A dark red stone, 
probably the bloodstone, was used in the seventeenth century 
for murrain in cattle, and hydrophobia in man and animal. 
This stone was preserved carefully in a family until 1850, but 
soon afterwards was lost. A Welshman allowed me to look at 
a curious blue stone, which resembled an uncut sapphire. The 
owner told me that it belonged to his great-great-grandfather, 
who once befriended a witch. The witch, who had been much 
persecuted, was placed in the stocks, and also threatened with 
death, in the first half of the eighteenth century. While in 
the stocks she died suddenly. Just before her death she spat 
the blue stone out of her mouth to the man who had befriended 
her, as a charm to procure long life and prosperity. The 
owner of this stone told me he well remembered a collection 
of charm-stones and kindred objects being taken to a lime-kiln, 
where, by order of the Dissenting minister and the parson, 
they were burnt with the limestone. In this way many 
objects of antiquarian value were destroyed. The lore, which 
is now regarded as of unusual interest, was at that time 
suppressed as unholy superstition, but secretly it was cherished 
by the old people. Occasionally these charm-stones were 
applied to the seat of disease. Red jasper was much valued. 
To insure its efficacy the stone, when used, was never to be 
touched by the first finger of the right hand. Adder-stones 
and snail-heads were among the charm-workers. At one time 
amber heads were much used. An aged Welshwoman told 
me that in her grandmother's days all the girls and women 
who could buy them wore a string of amber beads around 
their necks, to protect them from the evil eye, blindness, 
and the power of witches. [Family Collection,] 

In an old house-book, dated late in the eighteenth century. 


particulars are given of amulets worn to prevent all kinds of 
infectious complaints. 

One was composed of the roots of plantain, colchicum, and 
flowers of lavender. The roots were dried and reduced to 
powder, which was placed in a small silken bag, and worn sus- 
pended around the neck. This amulet was considered very 
efficacious in protecting the wearer against cholera and malig- 
nant fevers. 

Another amulet consisted of vervain root, dried, powdered, 
and worn in a sachet around the neck. This was supposed 
to " cure all diseases," especially those of the head. 

These amulets were equally efficacious in defeating the designs 
of evil spirits and witchcraft as in protecting against sickness 
and infection. 

A favourite amulet in many parts of Wales in the days of 
old was the beginning of the Gospel of St. John inscribed on 
parchment, enclosed in a bag, and worn suspended by a ribbon 
around the neck. 

An amulet used for defeating evil spirits even more than 
sickness and infection ran as follows : "Rotas, Opera, Tenet, 
Arepo, Sator." This was seen inscribed on a small stone in 
the year 1850 in Glamorgan, but the person who copied the 
inscription was not allowed by the owner to keep this ancient 
relic. What became of it subsequently is not known. It 
was probably found among Roman remains, or with Roman 
coins, and used by a Romanized Welsh person, for a British 
torque was found near it 

The following was copied from an old Welsh MS. in 1848. 
It was composed of a combination of numbers, thus : 

"28,35, 2, 7=72. 
6, 3*32,31=72. 
34,29, 8, 1=72. 
4> 5. 30, 33=72." 

This, making a total of seventy-two, whichever way added 
up, was written in the squares of a square figure, with your 
enemy's name under it. The parchment was then neatly 
folded, placed in a bag, and worn against the breast. It would 
render your enemy powerless against you. 

The talisman differed from the charm and amulet in having 


power to defeat or summon the aid of supernatural beings or 
influences. In Welsh lore a celebrated talisman is mentioned. 
It was no less than " The stone of the ring of Luned, which 
liberated Owen, the son of Urien, from between the portcullis 
and the wall. Whoever concealed that stone, the stone or 
bezel would conceal him."* 

The Welsh women believe, in common with other nations, 
that, should anything happen to their wedding-ring, such as 
the loss or breakage of it, separation or death would ensue. 

The modern French word so much in use at present, la 
mascatte, is described- in up-to-date dictionaries as " a luck 
piece, fetish, or talisman, whose presence is supposed to be a 
cause of good fortune." 

A very mystic sign of talismanic power was the pentacle. 
It consisted of five straight lines joined and intersected to 
form a five-pointed star. In the middle ages it was held in 
great veneration. They were often cut into the bark of trees 
to charm away or banish ghosts, witches, and evil spirits that 
haunted the neighbourhood. Sometimes they were painted 
on barn-doors, the inside doors of houses, and often on cradles. 
The art of making them descended from father to son, until 
people could not tell why they made these signs, which were 
seen so late as 1850 in some places. Trees felled at St. Donat's, 
Tresillian, Beaupre, Cwmciddy, and Porthkerry in the first 
half of the nineteenth century had pentacles cut into the bark. 
All these places are in South Glamorgan. They were found on the 
doors of old houses in many parts of Wales. [Family Collection.'] 

Cradles bore this mystic sign, either carved or painted on 
them. An old oak cradle that had been in the possession of 
a family more than a hundred years had a pentacle cut into it. 
The owner valued it highly, for it had come into her possession 
at the birth of her first child, in the year 1801. This old woman 
was bom in 1783, and died in 1879, leaving the cradle to her 
great-grandson. In 1878 the cradle was jealously guarded by 
the good old dame of the Vale of Glamorgan ; but when her 
descendant, a Rhondda collier, obtained possession of it, he 
valued it so little and considered it so old-fashioned that 
he cut it up for firewood. 

♦ ** The Mabinogion," p. 54 notes. 


It is doubtful whether many, if any, of those quaint old 
cradles carved with the pentacle remain in Wales. 

These mystic signs were generally carved, scratched, or 
painted on wood or stone. They were to be found in many 
curious places so late as 1858, when stones inscribed in this 
way were broken up for road repairing in Glamorgan. An 
old gatepost at Tresillian, in the Vale of Glamorgan, bore 
these mystic signs when the last of the Mai Santau were held 
there. Soon afterwards it was taken down, and the house 
restored for a gentleman's residence. 

Love spells included many kinds, and were in use until quite 
recent dates. In remote places they are tried in the present 
day — more for the fun of doing so than for peering into the 

To find out the Christian name of husband or wife, it was 
directed that an apple must be peeled in one unbroken strip 
from beginning to end. This peel should be placed behind 
the front-door. The first person who enters the house of the 
opposite sex to the one who peeled the apple wiU have the same 
Christian name as the future husband or wife. 

To know whether your husband or wife will be tall or short, 
go to the place where you store wood or sticks, and with your 
back to it, pull out a piece on Christmas night. If it happens 
to be long, the future wife or husband will be tall, or vice versa. 

On Christmas Eve at midnight take a brush and sweep the 
floor backwards. If the girl hears a whip, she will marry a 
man connected with horses. If the sound of music comes, he 
will be fond of dancing and pleasure. 

Girls in some of the farm-houses take each an onion, and 
name it after a bachelor of their acquaintance. The onions 
are then put away in a loft. The man whose onion first 
" begins to grow," or bud, will soon declare his love. If the 
onions fail to bud, it is a proof that the men will not marry. 

When spinning of yam and flax was general in Welsh home- 
steads, the girls stretched the first piece of yarn or thread they 
spun on Christmas Eve or the day of the Twelfth Night outside 
the door of the house. The first man who passed over it would 
bear the same Christian name as the future husband. 

It was customary for girls to perform the following spell : 


Place a knife in the corner of the leek-bed, on a dark night 
and in absolute secrecy, after ten o'clock. Walk backwards 
around the bed, and be careful not to stumble or look back. 
If you are to be married, the apparition of the future husband 
will come and lift the knife from the leek-bed. If two appari- 
tions appear, the girl will be married twice. 

Another spell was accomplished thus : A key and a gold 
ring were placed in a Bible or Prayer-Book. The volume was 
then bound securely with a garter, and placed under the 
pillow of a spinster or bachelor. The sleeper would dream of 
his or her future wife or husband. 

To find the name of your future husband or wife, a door- 
key was placed in Ruth, chap, i., v. i6. The Bible was then tied 
so that the book could be lifted by the end of the key. The 
Bible was next suspended by the two index-fingers, and the 
above verse repeated. The person kept in her mind any name 
she wished, hoping it was that of her future partner. If she 
had fixed on the right name, the Bible would turn round 
during the recital of the verse ; if not, the book would not 

To prove whether any two young people would be man and 
wife, take two small wisps of straw or pieces of stick, name 
them after the persons, then set them on the surface of the 
water in a pan ; if they float close together, there will be a 
marriage. If one floats away from the other, they will not be 
married. The fault will rest upon the one that first floats 
away. If it is wished to know which of two married people 
shall die first, the same operation is performed, but the twig 
or straw that is the first to go under water will die first. 

It was customary for girls to go to the nearest cross-road, 

and, having brought some hemp-seed with them, to scatter 

it to the wind. Meanwhile the following couplet was repeated 

nine times : 

" Hemp-seed I sow, hemp-seed I sow, 
Hoping my true love will come here to mow." 

The girls then secreted themselves, and waited to see what 
men passed along the cross-roads. From among these the 
future lover was to come. 

Another spell was worked by means of the cleanly scraped 


blade-bone of a lamb. While scraping the meat off the bone, 
the following rhyme was repeated : 

'* With this knife this bone I meant to pick ; 
With this knife my lover's heart I mean to prick, 
Wishing him neither rest nor sleep 
Until he comes to me to speak." 

Dragon's blood in its powdered state was sprinkled on the 
fire at midnight to insure the presence of the future husband 
or wife. 

If a girl who has lost her sweetheart throws dragon's blood 
and quicksilver on the fire at noon or midnight, she will regain 
his affection. If a husband or wife who has lost the partner's 
affection does the same thing, happiness will be regained. 

An old woman told me that she threw dragon's blood on 
the fire at noon and midnight, and, turning around from the 
hearth, she saw in the doorway the figure of a man, who 
afterwards became her husband. 

If a girl wanted to see her future husband, there was another 
way of procuring her wish. On Midsummer Eve she laid 
supper on the table for nine persons. She invited seven guests, 
each one of whom sat at table. Each had to sit with eyes 
fixed on the plate, and not a word must be spoken, or the 
spell would fail in its purpose. The house doors were left 
open as widely as possible. At midnight an apparition would 
come and sit in the vacant seat next to the prospective wife. 
Or a funeral procession would be heard passing through the 
house, and the corpse would sit next to the girl who was to 
die before the end of the year. The seven friends remained 
seated, and the girl who invited them always occupied the 
eighth chair. The ninth seat was left vacant for the apparition. 
In ten cases out of twelve, said my informant, terror prevented 
the visitors remaining to see the apparition or the corpse. [0. 5.] 

Even in the present day the girls in rural districts place an 
apple-seed in the palm of the left hand and cover it with the 
right, meanwhile shaking both hands up and down, and 
repeating the following verse : 

** Kernel, kernel of the apple-tree, 
Tell me where my true love be. 
East, west, north, or south ? 
Pretty kernel, tell the truth." 


At the conclusion they examine the kernel, and whichever 
way the pointed end is found, from that direction the true 
love will come. 

To find out the occupation of their future husbands, the 
girls take what they call " wishing grass," and, touching 
alternately each sharp blade, they say : 

** Tinker, tailor, 
Soldier, sailor. 
Apothecary, ploughboy, thief !'* 

Or this : 

** Tinker, tailor. 
Soldier, sailor. 
Gentleman, tradesman, 
Farmer, rogue, or thief !'* 

Old people in the first half of the nineteenth century men- 
tioned a love-drink. It consisted chiefly of metheglin, mead, 
rhubarb, cowslip, primrose, or elderberry wine. But there 
was something else in it which they would not name, although 
they knew what it was very well. This beverage was put 
into a drinking-horn, and quaffed off by man or maiden, as 
the case may be. The old folks said that by means of this 
beverage the man secured the love of the girl, or the maiden 
that of the sweetheart. This drink was very pleasant, and 
people said the person who drank it would forget father, mother, 
heaven, earth, sun, and moon. A rich man in Glamorgan 
discovered the secret, and used it to obtain the love of a 
beautiful village maiden, who ever after followed him every- 
where. An eyewitness said : " It was pitiful to see her follow- 
ing him. She would run through pools, over hedges, up hill 
and down dale, only to catch sight of him. At last he got 
tired of her, and wished to undo the spell, but could not ; and 
eventually, worn out with mental anguish, the poor girl died." 
[Family Collection.] 

It appears that sometimes with the love-drink cakes were 

When a maiden saw her lover becoming indifferent towards 
her, she used to take small pieces of dough of nine bakings or 
batches in succession, and, after making a small cake, which 
was duly baked, she gave it to him to eat. By this means 
his former affection was supposed to return. Wives did the 


same with husbands whose affections grew cool or passed 
away. [0. S.] 

In the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth centuries 
people believed that some places and individuals were under 
a ban or curse ; therefore certain farm-houses were avoided. 
People refused to rent them, because the curse prevented the 
crops growing, flocks and herds thriving, and poultry fatten- 
ing. All dealings with persons supposed to be haunted were 
very carefully managed. Even in later times it was quite 
general to speak of people whose affairs go wrong as " That 
man seems to be under a curse,*' or " A curse seems to be 
hanging over him." It was the opinion in Wales that a curse, 
once uttered, lasted seven years, and may at any time descend 
upon the person aimed at. In some parts the curse was 
supposed to last until the third, fourth, or seventh generation. 
An old man in the year 1858 remembered a form of curse that 
was once in use in South Wales, and probably in the North as 
well. It ran, as nearly as possible, thus : 

" I curse thee ! I curse thee ! I curse thee standing, 
walking, riding, driving, running ; awake and asleep ; at 
morning, noon, and night ; both eating and drinking, going 
out and coming in. I curse all that is made and done 
by thee, all that is touched by thee. May thy crops and 
fruit be cankered, thy flocks and herds diseased ; thy 
daughters be ailing, and thy sons be maimed ! May thou 
die thrice accursed, and may thy descendants for seven genera- 
tions reap the harvest of this my curse ! Then shall thy house 
be the home of the raven and the bat, the snake and the 
viper !" This was uttered in Welsh, and the old man named 
several families and old houses in various parts of Wales 
where the curse had been verified to the letter. [Family 

Here and there in the Principality the ruins of old mansions 
and farmsteads are pointed out as having been " under a 
curse." Ailthough some instances have been mentioned as 
probably the work of priestcraft, the greater number are attri- 
buted to malicious people, witchcraft, and " righteous indigna- 
tion for a grievous wrong suffered." 

An expression that frequently falls from the lips of the 


Welsh people is " Bless you T' in the vernacular. It is not 
used in an irreverent way, but rather as an appeal to God on 
somebody's behalf, and the exclamation, " Bless me well !" 
has the same meaning. If a person slips in walking, or if 
anything goes wrong, he says " Bless me well !" If his 
neighbour has a fall or is in trouble, they say " Bless you !*' 
" Bless him V or " Bless them !" In the days of old the 
people went out and, with much ceremony, blessed the corn- 
fields. A blessing uttered in the morning protected people 
from the influence of the evil eye. It was customary for the 
fishermen of Wales to turn their boats sunwards, which was 
equivalent to asking a blessing on them. Some of the old 
people in the past turned their faces sunward, thus suiting 
the action to the words — " Bless you !*' 



IN Wales they say Monday is a bad day for beginning any 
new undertaking. On that day you should "lend nothing, 
give nothing, pay for all you buy, and fasten no legging 
on the left leg first/' [0, S.] 

Work begun on Monday will never be a week old. A 
Monday marriage is a " bad beginning.'' If a stranger looks 
through a house or room door without coming in on a Monday, 
the husband and wife, or the inmates, will quarrel. 

Tuesday was a very fortunate day, and for this reason, 
doubtless, it is a stock-market day in many parts of Wales, 
It was considered an excellent day for making journeys and 
getting married. At the same time, " devils appeared " on 
Tuesday. It was lucky to meet a stranger on Tuesday. 

Wednesday was one of the " witch days." A woman who 
churned butter on Wednesday had " dealings with a witch." 
Pigs driven to pasture on Wednesday would go astray. The 
boy who went first to school on Wednesday would be a dunce. 
It is unlucky to be married, to begin a new undertaking, to 
open business, or go to a situation on Wednesday. If people 
talked of witches on Wednesday, they would punish them. The 
most curious of the lore concerning Wednesday was the belief 
that if a woman consented to be churched on that day, her 
child would *' come to the gaUows " ! Finger- and toenails 
were trimmed on Wednesday for luck. 

Thursday was unlucky for removing from one locality or 
one house to another, for people said birds never carried any- 
thing to their nests on that day. Thursday was a good day 
for a christening. It was unlucky to spin or hew wood on 

241 16 


Thursday evening. Men who trimmed their own beards on 
Thursday were lucky. 

Friday was a " witch day/' and generally imlucky. Eggs 
put under a hen on Friday would be addled ; or if chicks crept 
out, the fowl would eat them up. If women neglected to brush 
and comb their hair on Friday, vermin would breed in it. 

New imdertakings on a Friday were unfortunate. If a man 
cut his hair on Friday, it would grow quickly. To remove 
from one house to another on a Friday foretokened many 
obstacles in the new abode. It was lucky to churn on Friday. 
Fruit-trees pruned on Friday will not bear blossoms for three 
years. If you put on clean underwear on Friday, you will 
not have gripes. To pare the finger- and toenails on Friday 
is good for luck and the toothache. The Welsh used to say 
that Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden on Friday. It 
was considered unlucky to bathe children in the sea or a river 
on Friday. A wet Friday, a wet Sunday ; a fair Friday, a 
fair Sunday. Friday is better than no day. If you wash 
garments on Friday, you will iron on Sunday. The Welsh 
said that the fairies controlled and disturbed the waters of 
springs, rivers, lakes, and the sea on Friday. 

Saturday was regarded as a lucky market-day for poultry, 
butter, cheese, and meat. It was unlucky to do any laundry- 
work on Saturday, or to do any kind of labour after sunset 
on that day. In the days of old they said if a woman had not 
cleared her distaff by Saturday night, the threads would never 
bleach white. If a dressmaker could not finish the buttonholes 
of the dress she was working on before midnight on Saturday, 
she would long have to wait payment. A Saturday's moon is 
regarded as being seven years too soon. The woman who spun 
or wove on Saturday night would walk after she was dead. 

In many parts of the Principality the Ystaf ell, or household 
goods and chattels, were always conveyed to the bride and 
bridegroom's new home on a Saturday for luck. A Welshman 
of the past would not begin a new undertaking on a Satur- 
day, if he could possibly avoid it. He firmly believed that if 
he married on Saturday, either he or his bride would not live 
the year out, or there would not be any children of the marriage. 

Sunday was regarded as particularly fortunate. At one time 


marriages were celebrated on Sunday for luck. Fanners 
said that if a person carried in his pocket a harrow tooth 
found on a Sunday, he would be able to see witches with tubs 
on their heads in church. The first three Sundays after a 
child's birth the babe should be " dressed up fine," so that 
it might grow up with a " good figure." Its clothes would 
always *' sit well " on it. A wound made with a knife or any 
instrument sharpened on Sunday would be slow to heal. 

Whoever sews any bed-linen or clothing on Sunday, if 
taken ill, she cannot die until it is unpicked. The man was 
doomed to the moon for gathering sticks on Sunday. Sticks 
picked on Sunday for lighting fire will not bum. Cabbages 
planted on Sunday will never thrive. Early in the nineteenth 
century it was considered lucky to dance after church service 
on Sunday evening. Card-playing on Sunday was regarded 
as very imfortunate to the players, for the devil helped to 
shuffle the cards. — ^ 

St. Dwyn wen's Day, January 23, was formerly celebrated 
with many festivities, the trying of love-spells, and the giving 
of love-tokens. This saint was the patron of lovers, friend- 
ship, and all ties of affection. The story of Dwynwen was 
at one time familiar in Wales. Maelon Dafodrill, a Welsh 
Prince, fell in love with Dwynwen, one of the beautiful daughters 
of Brychan Brycheiniog. But the stem parent had already 
arranged a marriage between his daughter and another Prince. 
Maelon's proposal was rejected. This angered Maelon Dafo- 
drill so much that he at once left his lady-love, and in great 
bitterness of soul, to spite her father, he cruelly aspersed her. 
Dwynwen was so distressed that she retired to a lonely wood- 
land, and there prayed long and fervently that God would cure 
her of love. Then she fell fast asleep. In her sleep an angel 
administered a delicious potion to her, which quite fulfilled her 
desires. But in a dream Dwynwen observed that the same liquid, 
administered to Maelon Dafodrill, caused him to be turned 
into ice — a statue of ice. The angel then asked her to express 
three wishes. She did so. The first was that Maelon should 
be unfrozen^ which, after all. proved she still had place in her 
heart for the old love. The second was that by means of her 
supplications all true lovers should either obtain the object 



of their affections or be cured of love. Thirdly, that they 
shoiild never wish to be married. The three wishes were 
granted, and Dwynwen devoted herself to a religious life. 
Faithful lovers who invoked her either obtained the object 
of their affections or were cured of love. Dwynwen's symbol 
was the crescent moon ; her magical girdle had the same 
attributes as the Cestus of Venus, and she carried a bow of 
destiny. During her last visit to earth she left her bow on the 
yellow sands of her southern shrine, wherefrom it was seized 
and turned into stone by the Hag of the Night, who fixed it 
about ten feet below the roof of Tresillian Cave, Glamorgan, 
where it is still to be seen. It is customary in the present 
day for people to visit this cave to try their luck under the 
bow of destiny. The trial consists of flinging a pebble over 
the natural arch of stone. If successful the first time, the 
person wiU be married within the current year. Each failure 
represents one year of life. In South Wales, on the shores of 
the Severn Sea, the festival of Dwynwen was held in April, 
when, it is asserted, she last visited the earth, and left in her 
footprints the blossoms of spring. In North Wales her festival 
was held in January, at her shrine, the church of Llandw- 
wynwen, in Mona (Anglesea). [Family Collection, the David 
Jones Manuscripts.'] 

On Candlemas Day in several places it was customary many 
years ago for people to light two candles, and place them on a 
table or high bench. Then each member of the family would 
in turn sit down on a chair between the candles. They then 
took a drink out of a horn goblet or beaker, and afterwards 
threw the vessel backwards over his head. If it fell in an 
upright position, the person who threw it would live to reach 
a very old age ; if it fell bottom upwards, the person would 
die early in life. [Family Collection.'] 

If the sun shines on the altar on Candlemas Day, there will 
be an abundant harvest in the ensuing year. It was considered 
unlucky if a single crow hovered or circled over a house on 
the eve or day of Candlemas. 

St. Valentine's Day was a favourite date for festivities. In 
the old Mabsant times dancing was the greatest feature of the 
festivities. It was customary to make true lovers' knots, and 



distribute them like favours. These were sent anonymously, 
and great was the amusement, and sometimes the consterna- 
tion, of the youths and maidens when these favours appeared 
on the bodice or coat of anybody present at the revels. Dreams 
of St. Valentine's Eve were supposed to be fateful. A child 
born on Valentine's Day would have many lovers. The farmers 
said a calf born on St. Valentine's Day was of no use for 
breeding purposes. If hens were set to hatch on Valentine's 
Day, all the eggs would be rotten. 

St. David's Day, the national festival of Wales, was kept 
up in rural parishes with much festivity in the past. The 
Mabsant revels and orgies were prevalent, and the wearing of 
the leek was popular. People believed that if they went to the 
churchyard at midnight they would see corpse-candles on the 
graves of families who were to expect a death during the year. 
They threw a shoe over their heads on this day, and if the toes 
pointed out of doors, they would either quit their present 
abode or die within a year If they walked around the leek-bed 
three times and in silence at midnight on St. David's Eve, they 
would see their future husband or wife, as the case might be. 

St. Patrick's Day was celebrated with revels. Strict people 
sixty years ago much objected to the proximity of March i 
and 17, because it gave good excuse for holding the Mabsant. 
Smugglers, wreckers, and dealers in contraband goods held 
high revelry in the seaboard parishes of Glamorgan on this 
day. A native of South Glamorgan gave me valuable informa- 
tion on this subject. He said he well remembered the people 
when he was a boy singing the praises of St. David and St. 
Patrick in the same song, but he had forgotten the exact words 
and the melody. There was something in the song about a 
boy being carried away by the Irish, and becoming one of 
them. This boy was lost to his native Morganwg (Glamorgan) 
for ever. The song expressed great detestation of the Irish 
for having carried the boy away, and afterwards claiming him 
as their very own, when he was " pure Welsh." [C. £>.] 

Palm Sunday, called in Welsh Sul-y-Bledau, was celebrated 
in several ways in Wales. In South Wales a curious custom 
prevailed. The image of a donkey was made of wood. On 
this a stuffed effigy was placed, and these were glued fast to 


a platform, which was set upon wheels. The donkey and the 
effigy were decorated with flowers and bunches of evergreens. 
When brought to the church door by the procession, each 
member carried a sprig of evergreen, seasonable flowers, or 
herbs, box- wood predominating. The people were met by the 
'clergyman, who blessed the procession and the evergreens and 
flowers. The sprigs were carefully preserved for the year as 
a charm to keep away evil spirits and witches, and a protection 
against mishaps. [^4. B, and C. Z?.] 

This old custom has long since become obsolete. 

In some parts of Wales Palm Sunday is called " Mothering 
Sunday," and all the graves in churchyards, cemeteries, and 
burial-places are decorated with flowers. But in rural places 
Easter Day is celebrated in this way, particularly in South 

Palm Sunday was formerly considered an unlucky day for 
a birth, because people born then were more in the power of 
elves, fairies, and witches than on any other day. 

If you walk around the boundaries of your land or garden 
on Palm Sunday, you will keep thieves away. 

In many parts of Wales on the Monday before Shrove 
Tuesday it was customary for the children to call at the neigh- 
bours' houses, and sing the following lines in Welsh. Trans- 
lated, they run thus : 

** Lent crock, give us a pancake, 
A fritter, or bread and cheese ; 
A few fine eggs, or a dish of flour. 
Or anything else you please. 

'* I see by the latch 
There is something to catch. 
And I see by the string 
There's a good dame within. 

" Lent crock, throw and throw ; 
Give me my dole, and I'll go." 

Shrove Tuesday was favourable for all new enterprises. If 
pancakes were not made and tossed on this day, there would 
be little prosperity during the ensuing year. If you drank 
butter-milk on Shrove Tuesday, you would never have freckles 
or sunburn. If you buried a piece of pancake, you would have 
luck during the next twelve months. 


Ash Wednesday was formerly a day of gloom, and at one 
time silence was enforced upon young people on that day in 
remote parts of Wales. Witches were supposed to " groan " 
on this day. 

Maunday Thursday was important for doing good deeds. 
It was customary for schoolboys to put up a target of wood or 
stone, and pelt it with pebbles on this day. If anybody per- 
formed unnecessary work on this day, he would be in danger 
of being stricken by thunder and lightning. 

Good Friday is regarded as a very bad day for any new 
work. On this day it is unlucky to meddle with earth, to 
plough, sow, or to do any kind of gardening. If you use a 
sewing-needle on this day, lightning will destroy you or your 

If you endure thirst on Good Friday, whatever beverage 
you drink during the year will not hurt you. 

Bread made on Good Friday quickly turns sour. Some of 
this bread was given by sailors' wives to their husbands in the 
days of old, because it was supposed to protect them against 
shipwreck and disaster at sea. 

Easter festivals in Wales were not particularly striking, but 
superstitions connected with the season were curious and 
interesting. The Baltan fires were lighted in some parts of 
the Principality, and the festivities attached to them resembled 
those of the May and Midsummer celebrations. 

Among the lower classes in many parts of North and South 
Wales a ceremony called " lifting " took place. It consisted 
of lifting a person three times, in a chair or on a stool, from the 
ground. On Easter Monday the men lifted the women, and 
on Easter Tuesday the women lifted the men. But the cere- 
mony must cease at noon on each day. The lifted person was 
expected to give, if only a few coppers, to all who exalted him 
for luck. 

In Glamorgan the last man to be married in the parish 
before Easter Sunday was on that day immediately after morn- 
ing service accompanied by a number of people to the highest 
hill in the neighbourhood. Each man carried a branch of 
gorse. When they reached the hill, the newly-married man 
ascended a hillock or heap of stones and delivered an address. 


In conclusion, he ordered that all men under sixty years of 
age were to be up and dressed before six o'clock, all men under 
forty were to be presentable before four o'clock, and all under 
twenty were not to go to bed at all, but to be ready in the 
streets or market-place on Easter Monday morning. If they 
neglected this command, the offenders were to be put in the 
stocks in turn for a certain number of hours. At dawn on 
Easter Monday the stocks were placed in a prominent position 
in the main street. Near it was a cart ready to convey the 
sluggard to the scene of his punishment. The house of a lazy, 
bed-loving bachelor was generally the first to be attacked. 
Then woe betide the lazy man who slept while his wakeful 
friends called him ! To force an entry, the villagers either 
burst in the door or entered the house by means of a window. 
Two or three of the men roused the culprit, commanded him 
to get dressed as soon as possible, and come downstairs. Then 
they lifted him over the threshold, placed him in the cart, and 
drove him to the stocks. There they made fast his feet. The 
latest-married man, who acted as master of the revels, lectured 
the culprit on the sin of idleness, and reminded him of the 
sluggard and his fate. Taking the right hand of the victim, 
the lecturer administered several strokes of a gorse-branch. 
Between each stroke he was asked a number of questions. If 
he evaded them or told an untruth, the stroke was harder and 
the reprimand severe. With his hand looking rather the worse 
for scratches, the man was released amid cheers. He in turn 
joined his tormentors in pursuit of another victim. If a girl 
was caught peeping at these proceedings, her shoe was snatched 
from her foot, and she could not reclaim it without giving a 
kiss or two as ransom. If a married woman or elderly dame 
visited the scene, she was obliged to pay a contribution under 
sixpence towards the roistering. All the fun was over by 
eight o'clock on Easter Monday morning. [Family Collection.] 

This custom ceased in Carnarvonshire and North Wales 
generally about the year 1825, it is said, but it was known in 
Glamorgan so late as in 1840. 

On Easter Day the sun was supposed to dance as it arose in 
honour of the Resurrection of Christ. Young people were 
advised to " rise early to see the sun dancing." Traces of 


this belief have come under my own notice in several parts 
of South Wales. Children in their play on Easter Eve said : 
"If you'll only get up early enough, you shall see the sun 
dancing/' On being asked for more information, the children 
said : '* The sun always dances on Easter morning, and if you 
will get up early enough, you will see it." 

In the days of old, and even now in rural districts, it was 
regarded as absolutely necessary, in order to insure '* good luck 
for the whole year," to wear something new, if only a small 
bow of ribbon. 

A cold Easter, a warm Whitsun. 

Children born or baptized on Easter Sunday were supposed 
to be very fortunate. 

It was considered a very evil omen for Wales when Easter 
Day fell on March 25, or Lady Day. 

Ascension Day is regarded as unlucky by miners and colliers 
in North and South Wales alike. 

The South Wales Daily News of June, 1878, recorded a super- 
stition of the quarrymen of Penrhyn, where thousands of 
workers refused to do anything on Ascension Day. The paper 
stated that " this refusal did not arise out of any reverential 
feeling, but from an old and widespread superstition, which has 
lingered in that district for years, that if work is continued on 
Ascension Day an accident will surely follow. A few years ago 
the agents persuaded the men to break through the supersti- 
tion, and there were accidents each year — a not unlikely occur- 
rence, seeing the extent of the works carried on, and the 
dangerous nature of the occupation of the men. This year, 
however^ the men one and all refused to work." 

In many parts of Wales it is considered unlucky to dig the 
earth or to plant or sow anything on Ascension Day. 

Whitsuntide was regarded in Wales as a more secular festival 
than that of Easter. The morris dancers were all alert at Whit- 
suntide, as at Christmas. Sometimes at this season the dancers 
were accompanied by a man dressed in green, and completely 
covered with ivy, leaves of trees, and flowers. When the whole 
party assembled in an open space, the leading person in the 
village was allowed three chances to guess the name of the 
man or youth concealed under the green. If the guesses 


were wrong, the person who guessed had to pay a forfeit in 

On Whit Monday morning the farm-boys and others went 
out very early, and with noise, merriment, and song awakened 
the lazy people in the village. At every sluggard's door they 
placed a bunch of nettles, which were generally tied to the 

In the latter part of the eighteenth century, about a fort- 
night before Whitsuntide the boys of the farms and villages 
were accustomed to go into the woodlands, and in a very 
secluded spot tell each other their sweethearts' names. The 
girls used to do the same. One person in each party kept the 
roU-caU, and when the Whit Monday dancing began the 
recorder paired the young people. Those who refused to be 
paired had to pay a fine of some kind. As a rule, the girls 
had to give beer, and the boys were expected to give a nosegay 
or neck ribbon. 

At that period a boy dressed in a girl's dress, and adorned 
with flowers and foliage, was led from house to house on Whit 
Monday morning. He was surrounded by other boys, who 
kept singing merry ballads until gifts were bestowed upon them. 
A girl gaily dressed and wreathed and garlanded with flowers 
also went from house to house, accompanied by other girls, who 
sang and sometimes danced until they received presents. 
[A. jB., C. jD., and Family Collection.] 

On Whit Monday people were expected to be up between 
three and four o'clock in the morning. Any breach of this duty 
brought upon the offending individual the penalty of the stocks. 

Whitsuntide was thought the best season for making a 
bargain. During the week it was the custom to throw pins 
into certain wells for luck. 

On the eve of Corpus Christi it was customary in some 
parishes for people who had any kind of ailment to kneel before 
the altar of the parish church, and fervently pray for their own 
and their friends' recovery. This was regarded as the health- 
restoring time, when prayers for that purpose could not fail to 
be effectual. It is said that a Welsh squire living among the 
mountains in the north of Glamorgan determined to put 
down the superstitious assembling of the " sick, lame, and 


lazy " in his parish church on the eve of Corpus Christi. He 
had the doors of the church locked, and ordered the people 
away. Lamenting sorely at the abolition of an ancient usage, 
the villagers returned to their homes, and the squire heartily 
enjoyed his triumph in the old Hall of his forefathers. His 
pleasure was short-lived, for at midnight, to his surprise, the 
church bells began ringing merry wedding-peals, mingled with 
funeral knells. He sent his men down to the church to pre- 
vent the people ringing the bells, but when his messengers 
reached the belfry they found it empty ! The moment they 
reached the Hall the bells began ringing again. Once more 
the messengers returned to the church, only to find the belfry 
empty and the bells silent. But as soon as they entered the 
Hall the bells were ringing merrily or tolling dolefully. From 
that night forth the squire allowed the villagers to enter the 
church when they liked on the eve of Corpus Christi. [C. D.] 

A similar story used to be told about a church in South 

Midsummer Day was formerly associated with curious cus- 
toms prevalent in many parts of Wales. One of these was an 
old tenure which consisted of paying suit of court and a red 

Waterton Farm, near Coity, Bridgend, Glamorgan, was held 
by paying the lord of the manor suit of courts and a quarter of 
a pound of pepper, which the said lord was to fetch away on 
or about Midsummer Day in a wain drawn by eight milk-white 

St. John's, or Midsummer Day, was an important festival. 
St. John's wort, gathered at noon on that day, was considered 
good for several complaints. The old saying went that if 
anybody dug the devil's bit at midnight on the eve of 
St. John, the roots were then good for driving the devil 
and witches away. In the days of old, if the cuckoo was 
heard " singing" after St. John's Day, dearth might be expected 
in the winter. If you lop a tree on St. John's Day, it wiU 
wither. People said that if man and beast leaped over St. 
John's (Midsummer) fire, they would be free from fever and 
all illnesses for a year. A curious way of forecasting the 
length of life, even so late as the middle of the nineteenth 


century, was as follows : Take as many St. John's worts as 
there are people in the house. Clean these free from dust and 
fly, and hang them on the rafters of a room. Each wort was 
named after an individual. Those whose plants wither first 
will die first. To forecast marriage, spinsters used to make a 
wreath or garland of nine different kinds of flowers. Walking 
backward, they endeavoured to throw the garland on a tree. 
The number of times it falls to the ground indicates the years 
they will remain unmarried. 

If it rains on St. John's Day, nuts will spoil and wicked 
women will thrive. There was formerly an old superstition in 
Wales that between June 22, or the eve of St. John, and 
June 26 a disastrous thunderstorm must be expected. It was 
lucky to be bom on St. John's Eve or Day. 

St. Peter's Day was selected by farm-wives for making nests 
for their hens, and by doing so on this day they would insure 
a plentiful supply of eggs. On St. Peter's Night unmarried 
women were accustomed to tie a small key on each wrist, and 
when in bed their hands were folded in prayer, while the six- 
teenth and seventeenth verses of the first chapter of Ruth were 
repeated nine times. The keys were to remain on the wiists 
all night, and in a dream the future husband would appear. 
At his appearance the keys would fall off. If the keys remained 
where they were tied, the girl would not be married or have 
an offer that year. 

St. Swithin's Day is considered a lucky birthday for a boy, 
but unlucky for a girl. If it rains on St. Swithin's Day, people 
expect the same kind of weather for forty days in succession ; 
if fair on that day, sunshine comes for a like period. 

Lammas Day was not much regarded in Wales, but on the 
seacoasts it is said that if on this day geese and ducks run 
about carrying straws in their beaks, there will be destructive 
storms in the late summer, and the autumn will be very bois- 

St. Michael's Day was celebrated in Wales in former times. 
A Michaelmas goose was always on the tables of those who 
could afford it. Even now in many parts of Wales the Michael- 
mas goose makes its appearance. It is a general custom for 
the Welsh housewife to make and bake a very large loaf-cake 


made of currant dough well risen with barm. It is called the 
Michaelmas cake. Pieces of this were distributed to every 
member of the family, the domestics, and any strangers who 
might call at the house. This is done for luck. At the present 
time the Michaelmas goose and the Michaelmas cake make their 
appearance in the houses of well-to-do Welsh people. According 
to the age of the moon on Michaelmas Day, the number of the 
floods after it will be decided. Wheat sown during Michaelmas 
week turns to cockle. Many acorns at Michaelmas, much snow 
at Christmas. Michaelmas Day was formerly regarded with 
suspicion in Wales. It was credited with uncanny power. 
There was an old superstition that on this night the Cistfaens, 
or warriors' graves, in all parts of the Principality were illumi- 
nated by spectral lights, and it was very unlucky to walk near 
those places on Michaelmas Eve or Night ; for on those two 
occasions the ghosts of ancient warmen were engaged in deadly 
fray around their lonely resting-places. [C. D, and Family 

Nos Cyn Calan Gauaf, All Saints' Day, or AU Hallow's Eve, 
was a time of much festivity in the Principality. In the days 
of old it was attended by many superstitious rites and cere- 
monies. A huge log was thrown on the fire for purposes of heat 
and light. As a rule, the only illumination of the great farm- 
house kitchen was that of the ruddy fire-glow. All sorts of 
tricks were performed, and charms were tried. The younger 
folk amused themselves by catching apples with their teeth 
from a tub of water, or suspended from a cord tied to the 
rafters. This cord was strung with apples, and had a farthing 
dip at the end. The greatest fun arose when somebody took 
a bite of candle and missed the apple. In the case of the tub 
and the cord, those who entered into the game had their hands 
tied behind their backs. Nut-lmming or grains of wheat 
substituted for nuts, and all kinds of games, were the order 
of the evening. When the people were tired, they congre- 
gated around the old hearth, and became attentive and some- 
times scared listeners while the aged grandfather or grand- 
mother related fairy-tales and ghost-stories in the fire-glow. 
Meanwhile, in secret and silence, uncanny tricks were at- 
tempted. Hallowe'en festivities are still kept up in Wales. 


It was firmly believed in former times that on All Hallow's 
Eve the spirit of a departed person was to be seen at midnight 
on every cross-road and on every stile. 

This was the weirdest of all the Teir Nos Ysbrydion, or three 
spirit nights, when the " wind blowing over the feet of the 
corpses " bore sighs to the houses of those who were to die 
during the ensuing year. 

If at midnight any persons had the courage to run three 
times around the parish church and then peep through the 
keyhole of the door, they would see the apparitions of those 
who were soon to die. 

If crows caw round the house in the afternoon of Hallow- 
e'en, there will be a corpse of an inmate or the dead body of 
an animal belonging to the inhabitant soon. 

If people on this night go to cross-roads and listen to what 
the wind has to say, they can thereby learn all the most im- 
portant things that concern them during the next year. 

If you sit in the church porch at midnight on Hallowe'en, 
or all through the night, you will see a procession of all the 
people who are to die in the parish during the year, and they 
will appear dressed in their best garments. 

In some parts of Wales the girls used to go at midnight and 
strip the leaves from a branch of the sage-bush. The appari- 
tions of their future husbands were supposed to pass at the 

The yam-test was another means of obtaining peeps into 
the future. Two girls would agree to make a little ladder of 
yarn without breaking any portion from the ball. The ladder 
was then thrown through the window. Then one of the girls 
would begin winding the yarn back, meanwhile repeating a 
rhyme in Welsh. This was done three times, and during the 
process the watcher would see the apparition of the future 
husband ascending the yam ladder. 

Divination with reference to matrimony was carried out by 
means of bowls or basins. Three bowls were placed on a table. 
One contained clean water, one dirty water, and one was 
empty. The girls of the household, and sometimes the boys 
too, entered into this with much spirit. They were blindfolded 
and led to the table, then asked to dip their hands in a bowL 


If they chanced to dip into the dirty water, they would be 
widows or widowers ; if into the clean water, they would marry 
spinsters or bachelors ; if into the empty bowl, they would live 

On this night people would cast stones or pebbles into the 
fire, and sometimes walnuts or hazel-nuts. When these were 
shot out by the heat, or if the nuts burst, the younger folk 
ran aside, fearing the " goblin black-tailed sow " would come 
and drive them into the fire. 

People said if a girl went backward and placed a knife 
among the leeks on this night, and concealed herself near at 
hand, she would have the pleasure of seeing her future husband 
taking the blade up and throwing it into the middle of the 

Until the first half of the nineteenth century the poor 
peasantry of many parts of Wales went about begging bread 
on All Souls' Day, November 2. The bread bestowed upon 
them was called Bara Ran, or dole-bread. This custom was a 
survival of the Middle Ages, when the poor begged bread for 
the souls of their departed relatives and friends. 

In almost every parish there was a holy well, and on All 
Souls' Day old women generally washed their eyes in the waters, 
so that their eyesight might retain its strength. 

St. Martin's Day decided the weather that might be expected 
during the ensuing winter. If the geese on this day stood on 
ice, there would he mire at Christmas. There was formerly a 
superstition that if meteoric stones fell on this day, some 
trouble would happen in Wales. The hooting of owls on the 
evening of this day was regarded as a very bad omen for the 
district or village where it was heard. 

St. Andrew's Day was selected for working several love- 
spells. Spinsters who much wished to know who their future 
husbands were to be were advised to go without nightdresses 
into bed, and invoke the saint. They would then see their 
sweethearts in their sleep. If the maidens took notice from 
which quarter of the compass the dogs barked on St. Andrew's 
night, they would know wherefrom to expect their future hus- 
band. If the sound of barking came from the north, the man 
would come from that quarter. A curious test was by means 


of a pewter tankard of beer. If the froth of the freshly-drawn 
beer ran over, they might expect a year of moisture ; if the froth 
stood heaped on top, they were certain of more dry weather 
than wet all through the year. It was customary for girls to 
melt lead on St. Andrew's Night, and pour it through a key 
.that had a cross in its wards into water that was drawn between 
eleven and twelve. The lead would reveal the shape of the 
future husband's tools, implements, or instruments. This was 
also done on Hallowe'en and other " spirit nights." 

It is still customary for the wives and mothers of the labour- 
ing classes to go from house to house before Christmas, to 
receive their annual dole of money and other good things. 
They chiefly visit the houses of well-to-do farmers, who are ready 
with their annual gifts. The aristocracy and country gentry 
bestow these gifts according to a prepared list, but some of the 
farmers are ready to receive the annual applicants. 

On New Year's Day the children used to go round the 
district, wishing their neighbours " A happy New Year," and 
soliciting gifts. They carried an apple or an orange on a 
skewer or stick. The fruit was decorated with gold and 
silver tinsel, and the girls and boys wore paper flowers in their 
hats and caps. This custom has become obsolete in many 
parts of Wales. 

In old Welsh superstitions it is said that if you feed your hens 
on New Year's Day with any available fruits chopped well and 
mixed together, you will make them lay whether they will or not. 

A sudden noise heard in a house on New Year's night fore- 
tells the death of an inmate. 

If the log on the New Year's fire does not burn brightly, 
and if it will not burn out, but smoulder, there will be disaster, 
sickness, or death in the family. 

If on New Year's Day you wash a dish-towel and throw it 
to dry on a near hedge, and then rub your horses with it, 
they will surely grow fat. 

The dreams of New Year's Night are generally fatal, or 
come true. 

Among the women of Wales it was customary, when the 
first batch of bread was made after New Year's Day, to make 
as many small round cakes as there were inmates of the house. 


Each cake was given a name, and a hole was made in it with 
the thumb. If any hole became baked up, it was a sure 
sign that the person to whom the cake was assigned would 
die within the year. 

Those who desire to get their wishes realized during the 
year should be the first to go to the well for a pitcher of water 
immediately after sunrise on New Year's Day. 

It is regarded as fortunate to begin any new undertaking 
on New Year's Day. 

It was considered unlucky for anybody to see a girl first on 
New Year's Day, while in some localities it is lucky for a man 
to see a woman first and a. woman to see a man. 

Holy Rood Day was set apart for a festival. In Glamorgan 
large parties of men and boys went out nutting, and brought 
the results of their labours to ancierit hostelries famed for 
keeping up the Mabsant. The nuts were equally distributed 
among the assembled visitors, and games were played, with 
fines and forfeits discharged with nuts. This day was cele- 
brated in a variety of ways in centuries gone, and the festival 
was kept up until the old Mabsantau became obsolete. 

So late as the years 1840 to 1850 the day dedicated to the 
patron saint of the locality was celebrated by feasting, pre- 
ceded by religious services and processions, and succeeded by 
dancing and merriment. These celebrations were called the 
" Mabsant " or " Gwyl Mabsant," which ultimately de- 
generated into noisy meetings and convivial excess. 

Old people in Wales still remember the Mabsant, and talk 
about it with considerable fervour and amusement. Very 
often practical jokes provided much mirth, and in days when 
there were no raOways and penny postage they were a source 
of great delight to young and old alike. One narrative will 
serve to illustrate the Mabsant, which was conducted all 
through Wales in much the same way. 

Young people saved money in readiness for the Mabsant, 
and on the morning of the day to be celebrated each one 
did his best to appear well dressed and in holiday style. In 
one locality the patron saint's day was February 7, but for 
some reason the festival was held in the nutting season. The 
afternoon was spent in games of various kinds, and when the 



twilight came, the people assembled in the long room of the 
village inn, where very often the sexton's fiddle and the parson's 
flute provided music for the dancers. In those days musicians 
went from Mabsant to Mabsant regularly every year, and were 
in great repute for their skill. My father and many others 
remembered an old Glamorgan harpist who for sixty years 
had made the same circuit. He began his itinerary at the age 
of twenty-three, and continued it until he was over eighty- 
three. The dancing in the Mabsant was excellent. Wales 
was renowned for good dancers in those days. Originally the 
Mabsant was a pleasant gathering of old and young, when 
mirth and melody were at their best, and the dancing would 
have done justice to any mansion. Subsequently the Mabsant 
became the rendezvous of objectionable people, who held 
orgies of the worst kind. Then it died and passed out of 

When a poor family wished to raise a little money for some 
useful purpose, or to make good a heavy loss, the founder of 
the object made a large brewing of metheglin (mead) or small 
beer. A notice was then sent out to the effect that a Cwrw 
Bach was to be held in the house on a certain date. Then 
young and old attended the meeting, and bought the beverage 
or treated their friends. In the early times the company 
drank but little of the metheglin or beer, and conveyed a good 
quantity home, or paid for much, and thus helped the family. 
Legal restrictions Were not severely enforced, and a few occa- 
sions sufficed to raise an ample sum of money. But in time the 
Cwrw Bach, like the Mabsant, degenerated, and eventually 
passed into disuse. While the Mabsant became completely 
stamped out, the restrictions of the Sunday Closing Act in 
Wales secretly revived the Cwrw Bach and its attendant 
Shebeenings, which are suppressed, but not wholly obliterated, 
in the present day. 

Gwyl-y-Cwltrin, Cooltrin Court, was a custom in many parts 
of Wales, and intended as an exposure of quarrelsome husbands 
and wives. Frequently these trials had a salutary effect, 
especially upon offenders, and served as a warning to young 
couples. My father well recollected one of the last of the 
Cooltrin Courts, and could name the leading characters in it ; 


but as their descendants are still living, I forbear doing so. 
The court was conducted with all the mock ceremonial of a 
real court of justice. Sometimes the Cooltrin Court was held 
in the parish in which the offence was committed, but occa- 
sionally it was held in a neighbouring parish. The object 
of the court was to expose and hold up to public ridicule 
husbands and wives who had quarrelled and come to blows, 
or actually fought, during the year. But the court was never 
held unless the wife had punished or assaulted her husband, 
and persisted in the molestation, and actually drawn blood 
from her spouse. The last Cooltrin Court my father witnessed 
was that held because a nagging woman had belaboured her 
husband with various instruments, including a fiat-iron and 
a poker. The poker had been the means of drawing blood 
from the man's head, hence the trial of Gwenni. Her husband, 
Dewi — by no means a saint — had complained to the neigh- 
bours, who took little notice of the domestic troubles until 
Gwenni overstepped the bounds and shed the blood of Dewi. 
The arrangements for the trial of Gwenni were conducted thus : 
a judge was appointed, and a jury of parishioners. Some- 
times the jury was called from another parish. The judge 
had the power to select counsel for the prosecution and defence, 
and these men had the reputation of being the best talkers 
in the district. In the trial of which I speak, as in all other 
Cooltrins, the judge, counsel, and officers of the court formed 
a procession near the Town Hall. A waggon, drawn by four 
horses, formed the centrepiece of the procession. In the 
waggon two men sat face to face in fighting attitude. One 
was disguised as a woman, representing poor Gwenni, and the 
other impersonated Dewi. The procession paraded the town, 
and halted by the house where the quarrelsome husband and 
wife lived. Then they proceeded to the steps of the Town 
HaU, and, with a fanfare of tin pots, kettles, pans, and a 
trumpet, the judge entered the haU. After the assembling of 
the court,, the case for the prosecution was heard, and the 
counsel for the defence replied. The counsel on both sides 
were quick-witted men, who provoked much mirth. It was 
a perfect burlesque. The judge summed up, and the jury 
retired to consider the verdict. In this case it was to the 



effect ** that Gwenni shall forbear to use the poker against 
Dewi and keep the peace for twelve months. For any breach 
of faith, the penalty was the ducking-stool." Dewi was also 
enjoined not to be " aggravating or in any way provoking to 
Gwenni." After the Cooltrin trial, the judge, counsel, jury, and 
officers of the court assembled at the Old Swan Inn, opposite 
the Town Hall steps, and there drank to the " good health and 
happiness of Dewi and Gwenni." 

A green winter makes a full churchyard ; a cold winter a 
warm summer ; too much simshine in winter, a rainy summer. 

A mild and sunny January promises a cold spring and an 
uncertain summer. 

If February blows the wild goose off her nest, poultry wiU 
be scarce that year. A fine February, a cold November. 

In Wales there is an old rhyme similar to the English couplet. 

It runs thus : 

" March wiU test, April will try ; 
May will prove whether you'll live or die.'* 

This is especially applied to consumptives and people who 
are subject to pulmonary complaints. 

There is also the Welsh equivalent for the proverb, " If 

March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb," and vice 

versa. They say : 

** March winds and April showers 
Bring forth May flowers.'* 

April floods carry away frogs and their brood. A windy April 
is good for hay and corn. If there are many weeds in April 
the meadow-lands and cornfields will flourish. Thunder in 
April foretokens a fruitful and joyful year. If you are made 
a fool in April, you will be a fool or get befooled all through 
the year. The older Welsh people used to say that Cain was 
bom on April i. An April cat is a good mouser. A rainy April, 
a burning June. In April the cuckoo primes her bill. Barley 
sown in the first week of April turns to hedge mustard. 

Fogs and mists in May promise heat in June. Rain in May 
promises much hay. A swarm of bees in May is worth " eight 
oxen-loads '* of hay. A very showery May will bring a very 
full harvest. A cold May makes full barns and empty church- 
yards. A very cold May promises a summer of very little 


sickness. May was considered a good month for all contracts 
excepting that of marriage. The May bug was the devil's 
servant. Promises made in May are seldom kept. In May 
the cuckoo sings all day. Cats bom in May are supposed to 
bring snakes into the house. 

Crosses were formerly marked in chalk or lime on every 
door on May Day Eve, to keep the witches away. 

The person who on May Day goes to church with ground 
ivy under or on his hat, or on any part of his wearing apparel, 
or in his belt or buttonhole, will soon find out who are witches in 
the congregation. 

If consecrated bells are rung on May Eve, the *' witches 
who dance with the devil on the cross-roads at midnight will 
not be able to hurt anybody." 

The witches held some of their revels and excursions on 
the first night in May. 

If early in June the stones or paving around a house or 
the pantry flooring '* gives," and is quite damp with moisture, 
you may expect a Very warm summer. Warm mists in June 
foretoken great heat. A cold June brings an uncertain summer. 
June 25 was one of the important days of the year in Wales. 
It was one of the BaltSn days, and a time of great festivity. 
Many of the customs in connection with it have become obso- 
lete. When in this month the hay-crop is light, the Welsh 
farmers say : ** There is no need to rake it very clean ; we shan't 
want it aU." If the crop is heavy, they say : " Rake every 
bit : you'll want it all and more before next May is in." In 
June the cuckoo changes her tune. June 22, Llantwit Fair 
Day, decides the weather for the autumn. 

July fogs are supposed to bring the blight in their folds. 
When the sea makes a great noise in July storms are coming. 
This is considered a month for " no good anchorage." If 
an aged person is taken ill in July, he or she will " surely die." 
The children say that the " devil's messenger," the dragon-fly, 
comes " to spy in July," therefore they must be careful in 
their actions. July is considered an uncertain month for 
weddings. Marry in July, you'll live to sigh. In July the 
cuckoo " prepares to fly." If there is rain on July i, it will 
be a rainy month. If it rains on St. Swithin's Day it will rain 



for forty days. A shower of rain in July, when the corn 
begins to fill, is worth two oxen. The dog-days are unlucky 
for new undertakings. 

August is regarded as a royal and exalted month. It 
is very favourable for weddings and journeys. There is 
an old saying in some parts of Wales that a child bom in 
August will " rise in the world." Of the cuckoo in August 
they say " fly she must." In the early part of the nineteenth 
century old people used to say that the destruction of Sodom 
took place in August. Fogs in August promise a severe winter, 
with frost and snow. Heavy dew in August promises heat. 
If St. Bartholomew's Day is fine, a prosperous autumn may 
be expected. According to a Glamorgan saying, there is a 
complete change in the weather on August 26, St. Mary Hill 
Fair Day, when it generally rains. 

September was the " reaping month," and a very fortunate 
time for marriage. September gales were attributed to 
witches, and were often called " the witches' frolics." This 
month, on or about the fourteenth, it was customary to go 
** a-nutting," and bring the nuts to the Mabsant, where they 
were distributed. If three cold days came in the middle of 
September, the frosts would not begin in October. " Mid-Sep- 
tember dry would make a cellar full of Cwrw Da [good ale], 
but a ' mitty copse ' foretokened a * mottled harvest.' " 

From an eyewitness the succeeding account of an old Welsh 
harvest custom was received : 

He said : " On every large farm in many parts of Wales, 
especially in the South, a harvest celebration known as ' Y 
Gaseg Fedi ' (the harvest mare) was popular. There are 
many people who are at present able to give accurate descrip- 
tions of what was done before and after the harvest supper, 
and it is certain that ' Y Gaseg Fedi ' was the most important 
of all the customs. When the harvest-fields were reaped, a 
handful of com was left uncut by the reapers. This was 
bound or plaited, and left standing in a prominent place on 
the field. When the corn had been carried, and sometimes 
while the shocks still remained standing in the field, a mark 
was placed within a certain distance from the uncut portion 
of the corn. Here the reapers stood, with spectators behind 


them. At a given signal the leading reaper, followed by all 
his fellow-workmen in turn, aimed their sickles at the ' Gaseg 
Fedi/ or sheaf of standing corn. Often more or less danger 
happened when an inexperienced hand aimed badly, with the 
result that the sickle would spring back among the onlookers. 
By-and-by the coveted shock of corn would fall, cut down by 
a well-aimed sickle. Then followed struggles for its possession. 
This often entailed a free fight, after which the captor carried 
it in triumph and with difficulty to the harvest dinner- 

"But before reaching the farm-house he had to encounter 
a throng of merry maidens, who stood ready to throw small 
bowls of water over the com and its bearer. Quick-footed 
and capable of dodging the girls, the bearer was supposed to 
carry his trophy high and dry into the haU of the house. He 
was then the hero of the evening. Lazy farmers came in for 
a share of ridicule when the harvest dinner was finished. For 
then the roisterers went forth to plant the ' Gaseg Fedi ' in the 
field of uncut corn. Sometimes the farmer took the joke 
pleasantly, and heartily joined in the laugh when the ' Gaseg 
Fedi ' was placed in his field. Still, I have known instances in 
which the farmers resented the intrusion, and with their men 
opposed the intruders, and a free fight ensued ; but, as a rule, 
this harvest custom was conducted in a merry mood by the 
neighbours. The last celebration of this kind took place in 
our neighbourhood in 1863 or 1864." 

In some parts of Wales this custom was called " Y Wrach." 
In Pembrokeshire it was called " Neck " ; in North Wales 
it was known as ** Ysgub-y-Gloch," or bell sheaf. 

When the orchards were stripped of their fruit, it was 
formerly, and still is, customary in many parts to leave three, 
seven, or nine apples hanging on each tree, so that the next 
crop may be a heavy one. In many large and old orchards 
apples, pears, plums, and other fruit-trees are to be seen 
every autumn bearing their tributary numbers. 

October is regarded as a month of mystery. The last 
night of this month, the Eve of All Saints, called in Welsh 
" Nos Cyn Calan gauaf,'* the first night of winter, is one of the 
*' three spirit nights " when quaint old customs are prevalent. 


It is still kept up in the Principality. On this night spells 
and love-charms were formerly worked. 

November was considered as not lucky for weddings. Witches 
were supposed to have great power in this month. Their 
November Sabbaths were scenes of the wildest orgies, so the 
old people said. Children were told not to remain out after 
dark in November, for the witches would catch them. If 
there was sufficient ice in November to hold a duck, the winter 
would be a muddy one. 

If there is ice in December, clover can be cut at Easter. A 
warm December, a warm Easter ; but a green December 
promises snow at Easter. A windy Christmas Day promises 
trees heavily laden with fruit. If there is much rain for twelve 
days after Christmas, the next year will be wet. The people 
in South Wales say : 

** If it rains on Christmas Day, 
It will rain from May to May ;'* 

** If the sun shines on Christmas Day, 
There will be frost and snow in May." 

Sunshine in December foretokens peace and plenty during 
the next year. A stormy December is a sign of sickness in the 
spring. Some people foretell the weather in the following 
way : On December 25 or 26 twelve onions are named after the 
twelve months of the year. A pinch of salt is put on each. 
If the salt has melted by Epiphany, the corresponding month 
f wiU be wet ; if the salt remains, the month will be dry. 



THERE is a Welsh proverb to the effect that a good 
workman is known in his cradle. If a child in the 
cradle does not look up at you, it will be deceitful. A 
child with two crowns to its head will be lucky in money 
matters. If seven girls are born in succession, the youngest 
will be a witch or gifted with second sight. If seven boys are 
born in succession, the youngest will have the power to heal 
by the passing of his hands over the affected parts. He will 
also be lucky in planting and sowing, for " everything will 
grow after him.'' 

Children born with cauls around their heads will be very 
fortunate, and they will never be drowned. The caul is 
bought by master mariners for their ships. So long as it is 
on board the vessel will not be shipwrecked. Fastened securely 
to the figure-head of the ship, it is a protection against 
lightning and disasters by fire or meteoric showers. A child 
born on a Sunday will be fortunate. If born three hours after 
sunrise on that day, the child will be able to converse with 
spirits. Babes born on the last two days of the week are 
said to marry late in life. When a child suffers from hiccough, 
he is said to be thriving. If two children who cannot 
talk kiss each other, one will surely die within the year. 
The first time a child is carried out, one of its garments 
should be put on with the wrong side uppermost for luck. 
If a newly-born infant cries, three keys should be placed in 
the bottom of the cradle. If an infant learns to say " Dada " 
first, the next child will be a boy ; if it says " Mam " &st, 
the next child will be a girl. 



In the past it was customary for the nurse to place a Prayer- 
Book or a hymn-book in the bed until a babe was baptized. 
A fire was always kept burning in the room where the infant 
was bom. This was done to keep the devil away, and prevent 
the fairies from changing the child. The Welsh would never 
have a child baptized after a funeral, for they said it would 
thus be prevented from following the dead to the grave during 
its infancy or early years. They disliked christening a babe 
on the anniversary of its brother's or sister's birth. 

If a babe holds its head up during the christening ceremony, 
it will live to be very old ; if it allows its head to turn aside or 
sink back on the arm of the person who holds it, you may 
expect its early death. 

Christenings never take place on Fridays in Wales. The 
old people say : " The child that is christened on Friday will 
grow up to be a rogue." 

W^hatever a baby first clutches will indicate its future 

While a knife, a ball of yarn, and a key remain in an infant's 
cradle, it will not be under the influence of sorcery. 

A woman who is about to become a mother is not allowed 
to salt a pig or touch any part of the killed meat, or make 
butter, or do any kind of dairy work. This is of general occur- 
rence in the present day, for the touch of the woman is regarded 
as pernicious. 

She must not walk or step over a grave. If she does so, her 
child will die. If she dips her fingers in dirty water, her child 
will have coarse hands. If she ties a cord around her waist, her 
child will be unlucky. If she turns the washing-tubs upside down 
as soon as she has finished with them, her child will be tidy 
and orderly. If she passes through any kind of tangle, her 
child will have a life of confusion. If she meddles much with 
flowers, her child will not have a keen sense of smell. If she 
has a great longing for fish, her child will be bom too soon, 
or will soon die. " She must not spin," said people in the 
eighteenth century ; " for if she does, flax or hemp will be 
made into a rope that will hang her child." If, instead of 
eating at a table, she goes to the cupboard and " picks at 
food," her child will be a glutton. 


If she dusts her furniture with her apron, her children will 
be very disorderly. 

It is lucky for mother and child if a spinster passes in and 
out of the room at the time of the birth. 

Children should not be weaned at the time when birds 
migrate to or from Britain. If they are weaned at that period, 
they become restless and very changeable. If weaned when 
the trees are in blossom, they will have prematurely grey hair. 

Old Welsh nurses would not allow rattles to be given to the 
children, because they made the latter " late in talking " or 
" very slow of speech/' If you bathe babies in rain-water, 
they wiU talk early and be good conversationalists. 

If you rock an empty cradle, you will take the infant's rest 

The first time a baby's nails need paring the mother bites 
them off. If she cuts them, the child will be a thief. 

If you blow the baby's first food to cool it, the child will 
never be scalded in the mouth. 

A horseshoe placed under the pillow of a child subject to 
convulsions would cure the malady. Children beloved by the 
fairies died young. When babies smiled or laughed in their 
sleep, the Welsh nurses in the long ago said the fairies were 
kissing them. If a child in the cradle would not look at you, 
it would be a witch. It was customary to place a small bag of 
salt in the cradle until the babe was baptized, to protect the 
babe from witches. 

To insure good luck for a newly-born babe, a pair of tongs or 
a knife was placed iii the cradle the day before the christening. 
A piece of braid made of the child's mother's hair was used for 
the same purpose. 

The Welsh peasantry believe that children bom when the 
moon is new will be very eloquent. Those bom at the last 
quarter will have excellent reasoning powers. Girls bom whUe 
the moon is waxing will be precocious. 

People formerly said if you wanted your children to attain 
a long age, you should see that the godparents come from 
three different parishes. If you stride over a child who is 
crawling on the floor, you wDl stop its growth. Newly-bom 
babes should not be laid on their left sides first, for they will 


be awkward in shape and clumsy in movement * If a babe is 
w^eaned, and afterwards suckled again, it wiU become a profane 
swearer when grown up. If you measure a child for garments 
in the first six months of its life, it will often want clothes. 
When a child dies, they say it visits th,e person who was fondest 
of it. If a new-born babe is wrapped in fur, its hair will be 

A child who has not yet talked should never be held up to 
a mirror, for this encourages vanity. 

A child with small ears will never grow to be rich, while a 
babe with very large ears will live to be selfish and a great talker. 
A near-sighted baby will be a saving man. Red birth-marks 
around the neck of a child are called the *' hangman's sign," 
and he will come to the gallows. If the baby's eyes are 
beady, he will be untruthful. The old women say : " Watch 
well when the child has finished cutting its first teeth, for if 
there is a parting between the two front teeth to admit the 
passing of a sixpenny-piece, that individual will have riches 
and prosperity all through life." The child who enters the world 
in an abnormal manner will be gifted with courage, and be able 
to conquer his enemies. A very precocious child dies early. 

It was formerly the custom in Wales to make a large rich 
cheese for luck, in readiness for the expected birth of the 
first child. This was made in secret, and not a man was allowed 
to know of it, especially the husband. When the gossips 
congregated at the birth, and the husband invited the women 
to take refreshment, they stolidly refused ; but the moment 
his back was turned out came the cheese and beer ! Part 
of the cheese was eaten, and the remainder was divided among 
the women, who were expected to take their portions home. 
All this was done secretly for the sake of good luck and the 
prosperity of mother and infant. 

In many parts of Wales baptisms were sometimes held at the 
residence of the parents. After the ceremony the christening 
water was removed, and thrown over the bed of leeks. If the 
garden did not contain leeks, the water was thrown over cab- 
bages or any green-topped vegetables. This was done to insure 
wisdom and prosperity to the infant, and to prevent any 
illness or unlucky circumstance happening to the babe or the 


family. Font* water was disposed of in the same way. If 
some of the christening water was thrown high up against the 
belfry wall, the child would attain an exalted position. Children 
that cried at their christening would never live to a great age. 
If the babe's arms were left free at the christening, the child 
would be expert and industrious. If a sponsor looked around 
during the christening ceremony, the child would be able to 
see ghosts. Sponsors at a christening should not wear dirty or 
soiled linen, or witches would have power over the babe. If 
the godparents refused any dish at the christening feast, the 
babe would dislike that food all through life. If the sponsors 
whispered during a christening, the babe would walk and 
talk during its sleep. 

A christening immediately after a funeral is of ill omen to 
the babe and its relatives, for the child or a member of the 
household will soon *' follow the dead." If the christening 
takes place immediately after a wedding, the child will be rich 
and happy. Children who die unbaptized are said to be for 
ever hovering between earth and heaven. In the days of old 
the nurses said these children were claimed by the fairies, 
or were doomed to follow Mallt-y-Nos and Arawn, King of 
the Underworld. 

With reference to the churching and christening ceremonies 
of the past, the following quaint custom was general : The 
monthly nurse, carrying the child, accompanied the mother to 
church. A slice of white bread and butter or bread and cheese 
was also brought by the nurse. White or wheaten bread was 
very scarce in the past. The slice was given to the first person 
met by the christening party on the way to church ; but the 
person to whom it was given must be of the opposite sex to 
that of the child which was to be christened. This custom 
was supposed to insure plenty and prosperity to the child all 
through life, and to keep it from poverty and want. 

When Welsh parents brought their tenth child to be 
christened, people said they were " holding Hunger at the 

It was customary for young people to take the breast-bone 
or '* merry- thought " of a chicken or fowl, and conceal the 
joint, then to offer either end to a friend. It was then cracked. 


and the person who obtained the larger side of the joint would 
be married first, while the other would be the first to rock the 

Three lights accidentally burning on the same table fore- 
token a wedding. If a person stumbles in going upstairs, the 
one who comes after will soon be married. If a girl steps on 
the cat's tail, she will not be married in that year. If a girl 
lets her knife fall, her lover and future husband is coming. 
If a girl or a wife loses her garter, her lover or husband is 
unfaithful to her. WTien thorns or brambles catch or cling to 
a girl's dress, they say a lover is coming. Boys born on New 
Year's Day will be unlucky in love afiairs and marriage. The 
unexpected advent of a girl baby on January i means 
prosperity and a wedding in the family within twelve 
months. Girls born on Christmas Eve will be lucky in 

Saturday is considered a lucky day for a wedding. 

The bride and bridegroom are advised not to look round 
on their way to church. They are to stand as closely as 
possible together, to prevent witches creeping in between 
them. If at the altar the bride and bridegroom stand far 
apart, they will not agree. The person who gets up first from 
the altar will die first. 

If a woman bursts her wedding gloves or shoes, or splits any 
article of her raiment, she will be beaten by her husband. 

Snow on a wedding-day indicates a very happy marriage. 

If rain falls on the bridal wreath or bonnet, the married pair 
will be prosperous. 

If there is a grave open in the churchyard during a wedding, 
it is considered unlucky. If the grave is for a man, the bride 
will be a widow ; if for a woman, the bridegroom will be a 
widower ; if for a child, their children will die early. If two 
weddings take place at the same time, one of the husbands 
will die, or a separation will take place. 

To marry at the time of the waning moon will cause the luck 
of the bride and bridegroom to wane. It is lucky to marry 
when the moon is new. 

A bride must not keep the pins that fasten her wedding 
dress, or those used in any part of the toilet. The pins 


must be thrown over her left shoulder, or into the fire for 
luck. If the bride preserves a piece of her wedding-cake, she 
will never know the want of bread. 

It is unlucky to be ''called '* at church at the end of one 
quarter of the moon, and to be wed at the beginning of the 

If a woman loses her wedding-ring, or even if it falls off, 
it is a sure sign that she will lose her husband's affection or 
there will be a separation. 

In the days of old it was customary to ride on horses to 
the wedding ceremony. On the return journey, when the 
bride rode on the same horse as the bridegroom, it was con- 
sidered unlucky for the husband to turn the animal or to rein 
it in until home was reached. If he did so, the marriage 
would be childless. 

It was considered unlucky for a stone to roll across the path 
of the newly-married pair. If the bride and bridegroom placed 
a small silver coin in their right shoe, the marriage would be 
happy. If the bridal procession chanced to meet a funeral, 
the wife would soon be a widow. For a bridal party to meet a 
cartload of dung was considered very unfortunate. If the bride- 
groom rode a mare to the wedding, his wife would have 
daughters, but no sons. If the bride slightly stumbled on her 
way to the altar, her first chfld would die early. Brides never 
went through the same gateway to church as that through 
which corpses were borne. If the chief groomsman gave the 
bride a small piece of bread and butter to eat before the 
wedding-cake was cut, her children would have pretty and small 

A Cardiganshire correspondent writes as follows : " In some 
parts of this county we, until recent years, retained the old prac- 
tice of marriage by capture. On the wedding-day the bride- 
groom and his friends proceeded to the bride's house. There 
they found the doors locked, and resistance was offered to their 
entry by the bride's friends. ScufHing and horse-play ensued, 
and when order was restored the spokesmen on each side held a 
dialogue, generally in verse. The bridegroom was then allowed 
admission. In the meantime the bride would be disguised, 
and was eventually found, dressed as an old crone, nursing a 


baby boy. The child was a boy for luck, so that the first babe 
of the marriage might be a male. After that the bride and 
bridegroom went to church. Before the wedding the father 
or person who gave away the bride rode off with her, and a wild 
chase ensued. When at last the bridegroom overtook the 
bride, the latter was delivered into his keeping, and they went 
to church, where the ceremony duly took place. The day 
after the wedding was devoted to the ' Tiermant ' or ' Tur- 
mant,' which resembled the English tournament, only on a 
smaller scale." 

Welsh weddings,* especially among the peasantry in the 
past, were considered incomplete without the customary 
bidding. This was a general invitation to all the friends of 
the bride and bridegroom to attend the house of one of the 
contracting party's parents or a friend's residence. It was 
understood that each visitor brought a small sum towards 
making up the purse for the young people with which to begin 
their finances. These donations were registered, and regarded 
as debts to be repaid when the next friend's wedding took 
place. In connection with the bidding was the Gwahoddwr, 
or Bidder, whose business it was to go from house to house to 
proclaim the date of the wedding. The Bidder carried a white 
wand decorated with ribbons, while his hat and buttonhole 
were decked with flowers. Int(J each house he went, and, 
taking his stand in the centre of the living-room floor, he 
struck his wand thereon to enforce silence. Then he announced 
the wedding in prose or verse, according to his capabilities. 
In addition to the Bidder's address, people who could make 
rhymes contributed their share of verse to the proceedings. 
Sometimes a written or printed circular was sent out instead 
of a Bidder. The following is a copy of one of these circulars : 

** September 25, 1801. 
" As we intend to enter the matrimonial state on October the 
25th next, we are encouraged by our friends to make a Bidding 
for the occasion at the house of the bride's father, at Penmark. 
There the favour of your company is most respectfully invited. 
Whatever donation you may be pleased to bestow upon us 
* Llewelyn Pritchard's, ^* Twm Shon Catti,'* pp. 48-59. 


will then be thankfully received, and cheerfully repaid when- 
ever called for on the like occasion. 

" Yours obediently, 

" J. H. 

"G. G." 

" The parents, brothers, and sisters of the young bride and of 
the bridegroom desire that all gifts of the above nature due to 
them be returned to the betrothed pair on the same day, 
and will be thankful for all favours granted." [A. B.] 

This custom is called in Welsh Pwrs-a-Gwregys, or purse and 
girdle, and is doubtless of very ancient origin. 

A peculiar kind of dance was popular in all parts of Wales, 
and it was freely indulged in on the eve of the wedding and 
the night of the marriage day. The harpist or fiddler would 
play a gay tune, and then invite the young people to dance. 
When the couples had been selected, one of the girls would 
invite her partner to dance, and he would refuse. The girl 
would then appeal to the harpist, and a very amusing dialogue in 
verse was heard between them. The harpist would advise the 
girl to make a second appeal to her partner. This she would 
do with success. The same proceeding was followed by all the 
girls in turn, and much n^irth was the order of the evening. 
Steps and reels, and various dances well known in Wales, were 
popular on these occasions. \Family Collection,'] 

It was considered very unlucky for a bride to place her 
feet on or near the threshold, and the lady, on her return from 
the marriage ceremony, was always carefully lifted over the 
threshold and into the house. The brides who were lifted 
were generally fortimate, but trouble was in store for the 
maiden who preferred walking into the house. 

" Chaining " the bride and bridegroom is common to all 
country weddings to-day. A rope is held across the road at 
various points from the church to the house, and the bridal party 
is not allowed to pass unless they pay their footing. It was 
formerly customary to pelt the bride and bridegroom with 
flowers as soon as they came out of church. This custom, 
which was pretty and harmless, is now superseded by rice and 
confetti throwing. 



Bridal flowers in Wales were the pansy, roses of all colours 
(excepting yellow), prick-madam, gentle heart, lady's-fingers, 
lady*s-mock, and prickles. In some places the golden blossoms 
of the gorse or furze, red clover, old-fashioned crimson fuchsia, 
golden rod, shamrock, and ivy, were popular. Whole straws, 
in token of partnership, were interspersed with the flowers. 

The bride should always buy something as soon as she is 
married, and befpre the bridegroom can make a purchase. 
*' Then she'll be master for life !*' say the old women. It is 
customary for brides to buy a pin from their bridesmaids in 
order to retain their privilege in the mastery of their husbands. 

If the youngest of a family was married before the eldest, 
the seniors had to dance shoeless for penance to the company. 

Funerals were formerly associated with many peculiar and 
melancholy customs, strangely mingled with feasts, convivial 
meetings, and speech-making. 

It was the rule when a person was dying to keep the bed- 
room door open, so that the soul could easily go out. In some 
parts of Wales the windows were set open for the same purpose. 

In hushed whispers the old people of the Principality used 
to mention the name of Margan, a spirit supposed to con- 
duct the soul on parting from the body to the place assigned 
to it in the other world. [C. D. and A. B.] 

One of the obsolete customs of Wales with regard to funerals 
was the Gwylnos, or wake-night — the evening before the 
body was conveyed to the grave. When the relatives and 
friends of the deceased person had assembled, the coffin con- 
taining the body was lifted on four men's shoulders. These 
men then proceeded to tramp up and down the room with slow 
and measured steps. Meanwhile the immediate relatives would 
hide their faces in their hands and moan incessantly. Groans 
and sighs sounded dismally, and occasionally a muffled scream 
or shriek varied the monotony. Hot spiced beer, or hot elder- 
berry wine, was handed round, and it was considered unlucky 
if anybody refused a sip. The coffin was frequently changed 
from one set of men to another, and this proceeding was 
carried out all night. The purpose of this strange custom was 
to scare away the evil spirits, goblins, and hobgoblins who 
were supposed to be lurking in dark corners of the house to 



carry away the soul. These spirits, according to the old folk- 
lore, would not quit the premises until the body was borne to 
the gfave. [Family Collection,] 

In the words of an aged Welshman, this custom was in- 
tended '* to give or bestow upon the corpse the fosterage of 
friends, who undertook to chastise or punish evil spirits who 
tried to prevent the soul from passing through the portals of 
death into the fair and blessed life which it panted for, and 
would reach in spite of any dark covering that might be placed 
in its way." 

The Gwylnos, or wake-night, of Wales was succeeded in 
the nineteenth century by other customs which allowed the 
body reverent rest, but were not free from superstition. 

When the coffin had been borne out of the house and laid 
upon the bier, the nearest of kin in the female line gave over 
the body a quantity of small white loaves, and sometimes 
pieces of cheese with money stuck therein, to certain aged 
people. The loaves were placed in a large pewter dish kept 
for the express purpose. Then a cup of wine, or metheglin, 
or small beer, was handed around, and every recipient of a 
loaf was expected to take a sip. After this everybody knelt 
down, while the clergyman or minister present repeated the 
Lord's or any other prayer. It was customary for the bearers 
to set the bier with the coffin on it three times on the thresh- 
old. When the body had left the premises, the gate was 
bolted. The procession then left the house. At every cross- 
road between the house and the church the bier was laid 
down, the people knelt, and the cler^gyman or minister prayed. 
The same proceeding was carried out when the procession 
entered the churchyard. AH the way from the house to the 
church psalms and hymns were sung. 

A pewter dish containing salt was sometimes placed near 
the coffin, and people were expected to take a pinch of it before 
the funeral procession left the house. The distribution of 
bread and salt kept the people free from the thrall of sorcery, 
and the body of the deceased safe from the power of evil 
spirits and witches. During the funeral the caretaker, who 
remained in the house, sprinkled salt in the bedroom, then 
swept it away, and the sweepings were always burnt. 



In bygone times it was customary for all people who attended 
a funeral to place a coin on the coffin or on a table near at 
hand for the benefit of the bereaved family. These offerings, 
known as Cymmorthau, were given by those who had ample 
means to people of limited means or the poorer classes. 

A service known as " the month's end " — meaning the last 
Sunday in the month after a person's death — is held in the 
church or chapel of which the deceased was a member. To 
this service the chief mourners, all the relatives, friend,s, and 
acquaintances of the deceased come, and a funeral sermon is 
preached. Sometimes this service is held on the Sunday 
after the funeral. This latter arrangement is still customary 
in Wales. 

Nearly all the old funeral customs have become obsolete, but 
in some of the rural parts of Wales " the singing procession '' 
survives, and is one of the most pathetic and solemn accompani- 
ments in connection with the mournful occasion. 

At Rhayader, in Radnorshire, an ancient funeral custom 
was continued until quite recent years. On the occasion of 
every funeral procession all the mourners carried small pebbles 
from the house to the church. When the men bearing the 
body arrived at the turn of the road leading to the church, 
each mourner threw a pebble to a large heap of stones which 
had accumulated there by the offerings from previous pro- 
cessions. Each person throwing a pebble said, " Careg-ar-y- 
t)en " — that is, " A pebble on thy head." The old church 
associated with this curious custom fell in 1722, and a new 
building was erected in 1888. It is dedicated to St. Clement. 

An ancient custom, which prevailed in remote districts so 
late as the last half of the eighteenth century, was formerly 
remembered by aged people. When a person died, the relatives 
sent for a local bard or another individual to perform the 
following ceremony : Upon this man's arrival, he placed a 
pinch of salt on the breast of the deceased, and upon the salt 
a piece of bread. He then recited the Lord's Prayer or the 
Apostles' Creed over the bread, and then ate the latter. When 
this was done, he was paid a fee of not less than two shillings and 
sixpence. Then he went away. In superstitious times this 
man was regarded with loathing, and as one absolutely lost, 



because he had, as it were, eaten the sins of the deceased. 
In remote centuries he was called the "sin-eater." An aged 
man living in the year 1826 had the reputation of having been 
in his earlier days a sin-eater. [Family Collection.] 

This custom was in no way connected, as some people assert, 
with Druidism. It seems to have been a survival of mediaeval 

In the early part of the nineteenth century people arranged 
funerals to take place after nightfall, either by moonlight or 
torchlight, and very often in the twilight. This custom has 
long become obsolete, but even now the sunset hour is often 
chosen for funerals. 

Previous to the year 1852 it was considered unfeeling to 
leave a dead body in a room by itself during the interval 
between death and burial. By day and night the corpse was 
watched, and candles were kept burning in the death-chamber. 

Every village and rural town in Wales formerly had its 
traditional road by which the dead were carried* Many of 
these still remain, and are locally called " the burying lane." 
It was thought that if the funeral procession went along any 
other road, the soul of the deceased would have no peace. 
The ancient town of Llantwit Major, Glamorgan, still re- 
tains its " burying lane," but it is no longer used by funeral 
processions. In some places this was called the " death- 
road," and in earlier ages it was connected with Hades, or 
the intermediate state between earth and the abode of the 
blessed. The " death-road " was a remnant of pre-Reforma- 
tion times, and has long since become obsolete ; but the 
" burying lane " is still to be found in many parts of Wales. 

There was an old belief that this road or *' burying lane " must 
always be kept level, smooth, and in good repair, for Death was 
supposed to walk up and down it three days before the soul 
parted from the body, and, if it was in good order, the better 
it would be for the deceased. 

Death was sometimes described as riding a horse up and 
down this road. When dogs barked and howled in the 
night, people said, " Death is riding about, and the dogs see 

If a funeral procession had to pass through arable land^ 


whether the grain was standing or the soil fallow, people said 
misfortune would follow the bereaved family. 

If people walk quickly in a funeral procession, another will 
soon follow. 

In some of the old village churchyards there were double 
stiles, known as " cofRn-stiles," on which the coffin was rested 
before conveying it into the churchyard, and where the offici- 
ating clergyman always met the funeral procession. Death 
was supposed to wait for his horse there, or to pace up and 
down three nights before the decease of any person. 

When some of the "burying lanes " and *' coffin-stiles " were 
diverted from their purposes, and the corpse was borne along 
another road, or gates were substituted for stiles, there was 
a general outcry, because the change would prevent the dead 

In former times the route of a funeral procession from the 
house to the church was swept, and sometimes sanded. For 
the young and old alike the road was strewed with evergreens 
and ivy, mingled with sweet-smelling flowers. White blossoms 
were used for young spinsters and persons under thirty, while 
red flowers — chiefly roses — were scattered on the grave-path 
of people who were distinguished for goodness and benevo- 
lence of character. Sprays of the yew, with sprigs of rosemary, 
also found places among the foliage. 

In those days wreaths, crosses, and other floral emblems 
were not known, but *' posys," or nosegays, were sometimes 
carried by the mourners, and loose flowers were scattered over 
the coffin after it was lowered into the grave. Bowls with 
sprigs of box were placed near the door of the house when a 
coffin was carried out, and the mourners and friends were 
expected to help themselves to this evergreen, and to throw 
them into the grave. People said that if the chief mourners 
threw three clods or a handful of earth on the coffin at the 
commitment, it " helped the dead." 

Flowers were used for the decoration of the death-chamber, 
and after a body was laid out, the coverlet was adorned with 
beautiful and seasonable blossoms. 

Graves of the humbler classes even in the present day are 
planted with fragrant flowers. These are generally gilly- 


flowers, white pinks, polyanthus, mignonette, thyme, hyssop, 
camomile, rosemary, and balsam. A flower called " snow on 
the mountains " is much used for graves. 

In olden days a white rose-bush or the " maiden's blush " 
rose was always planted on the grave of a girl who died in her 

The graves and the clearings around them were covered with 
black earth, and carefully sanded. Sand and black earth pro- 
tected the dead against the devil, witches, and body-snatchers. 
For the same reason the little head- and footstones of the 
humbler graves were whitewashed. 



SUPERSTITIONS with reference to death are numerous. 
When a coffin sounds hollow in nailing it down, there 
wiU soon be another death in the house. The dead 
are laid out, if possible, with their faces to the east, ** for fear 
that the wind from the west, blowing over the feet of the 
corpses, will bring a catching complaint " into the parish. 

It was customary, whenever a death took place, to shake 
the vinegar and wine for luck. 

People who commit a crime which remains undiscovered are 
doomed to walk in spirit form, with their heads under their 
arms. Wales has the reputation of having innumerable head- 
less ghosts — an indication of many undiscovered crimes ! If 
a person buries or conceals money or treasure of any kind before 
his death, he must afterwards walk ceaselessly in search of it, 
or he will have no peace in the hereafter. If you beat down 
the undertaker's charges, the dead cannot rest. 

Dead children visit in spirit form the people who loved them 
best. The dead always reappear on the ninth day after 
death, but only a few are privileged to see them. 

A dead person's linen is always washed immediately, '* for 
fear he will not rest in his grave." 

Two persons who, wearing mourning, meet for the first 
time, must never fall in love, or they will '* come to 

If three thumps are heard in the house at night, a death will 
soon follow. 

If a mole burrows imder the washhouse or dairy, the mistress 
of the home will die within the year. If a molehill be found 




among the cabbages in the garden, the master of the house 
will die before the year is out. 

If the wind blows out a candle on the altar, or lights grow 
dim in the chancel or around the pulpit, the clergsnnan or 
minister will soon die. If the house candle gutters in a long 
length, it indicates a shroud or a coffin. 

When people experience a cold shiver they say, " A donkey 
is walking over my grave,'* or, " Death is picking my 

If the pall be placed on a coffin wrong side out, there will be 
another death soon in that family. 

To prove whether a sick person will live or die, place a hand- 
ful of nettles under his pillow. If they keep green, the invalid 
will recover ; if they turn colour, he will surely die. 

When a screech-owl is heard crying near a house, it is an 
indication of death on the premises. When a barn-owl alights 
on a house, hoots, and then flies over it, an inmate will die 
within the year. 

A solitary crow or goose flying over a house portends the 
same sorrow. If any person is ill when this happens, there 
will be no recovery. A cock crowing at an untimely hour is 
a death-warning. 

If a swarm of bees enters a house or settles on the dead 
boughs of a tree near the premises, the old people say " death 
will soon follow." When there is a death in a household 
the head of the family whispers the news to the bees, and 
the beehives are turned around before the funeral. 

If crickets suddenly desert a house, death will soon enter. 

It is said that the house cat can tell wheth^ the soul of 
the dead person has " gone to heaven or hell." If immediately 
after death the house cat ascends a tree, the soul is '* gone to 
heaven " ; if it descends, the soul is *' gone to hell." 

The ticking of the insect called the " death watch " is an 
omen of the inevitable. 

The death of a near relative was prophesied by a white 

If any person saw a white mole, he might expect his own 

A white crow presaged death or disaster in the house near 


which it appeared. A white pigeon was also a harbinger of 
death. A white dog, a white hare, or black foxes were re- 
garded as messengers of death. A dove or doves circling 
above the head of anybody were Supposed to indicate serious 
illness or death. 

It is unlucky to call the dead by name. If there is sudden 
thunder in mid-winter, the most important person for twenty 
miles around will die. If a body is lying dead in a village 
on a Sunday, there will be a death in the same parish almost 

In many parts of Wales it is asserted that if when you hear 
the cuckoo for the first time you are standing on grass or any 
green leaves; you will certainly live to hear the bird next 
season ; but if you are standing on a roadway, or the earth, 
or even upon stone, you will not live to hear the cuckoo when 
it comes next. 

If after receiving the Sacrament a sick person asks for food, 
he will die for certain ; but if he asks for water or any kind of 
beverage, he will recover. 

If a man dies exactly at the time of new moon, he will 
take away all the family luck with him. It is not good for a 
corpse to be reflected in a glass or mirror of any kind, 
because the dead will not rest. If two people express the same 
thought at the same moment, one of them will die before the 
year is out. 

A funeral on a Saturday was considered good for the dead 
person's soul. In Wales they say, " Blessed are the dead that 
the rain rains on." 

If a small silver coin is placed in the mouth of the dead, 
the latter will not come in spirit form to earth in search of any 
hidden treasure. If a corpse retains its colour or looks red in 
the face, one of the relatives will soon follow to the grave. 

Any person can pray that his enemy be dead, if he wishes 
to repeat Psalm cix. every night and morning for a whole 
year. If he misses one night or morning, he must certainly 
die himself. 

When prayers are said by a sick-bed while complete silence 
is maintained the patient will die. If anybody coughs or makes 
the slightest noise, the patient will recover. 


If a smell as of fresh-turned earth pervades a house, people 
say, " There will be a death in the fanxily soon." A wind 
called the "Gwynt-Traed-y-Meirw,"or " wind blowing over the 
feet of the corpses,*' is felt by a relative of a person who is 
about to die, and by that they say, " Death is coming." If a 
person shivers before a roaring fire or in the heat of summer, 
the people say, " The spirits are searching for your grave." 

If a watch or small clock falls to the floor, there will be a 
death in the house. When the house clock fails to strike it 
is an omen of death. If the town or church clock fails to strike, 
an important inhabitant or the incumbent of the parish will 
soon die. If two clocks strike exactly at the same moment, 
a married couple will die in the village. If the town or church 
clock strikes while the passing bell or a funeral knell is tolling, 
there will soon be another death in the parish. When the 
church bells sound dull or not so clear as usual, there will soon 
be a death in the parish. If a raven or rook perches and caws 
upon or near a house where a sick person is lying, it foretokens 
the patient's death. A long, narrow cinder falling from the 
fire denotes the coming of a shroud or coffin to the house. If 
a cinder called a coffin flies out of the fire, the person that it 
alights nearest will die first. If a mouse nibbles any part of a 
person's clothing, he or she will surely die soon. White beetles 
in a house are called " death-bringers." If two white lice are 
found in the hair or on the body of any person, a death in the 
family may be expected. If you allow your tears to fall on 
the dead, they will have no rest. 

If a strange dog howls near the house, it is an omen of a 
death in the family. In some Welsh households it is con- 
sidered an omen of death or misfortune for the house-dog to 
get up in the night and howl. The trouble may not actually 
fall upon the inmates, but upon their relatives or family 

It is considered very unlucky to pluck a flower that is growing 
on a grave. Persons doing so will experience death or disaster 
in their own families before a year has passed. 

Mysterious marks, generally very dark, or " black and blue," 
that appear on a person's body, especially the arms, and 
cannot be accounted for, are called " the death pinch." After 


their appearance people said there would soon be a death in the 

A sudden and startling noise heard on New Year's Night 
foretokens a death in the family. 

A person cannot die easily if there are pigeon's feathers in 
the bed. 

In Glamorgan and several other parts of Wales the yarrow 
is called " the death flower." People will not aUow it to be 
brought into their houses, for it is said that if it is taken in, 
one, two, or three funerals will soon come out of the same 
house, or wiU happen in the same family. 

The omens of death included the Cyhiraeth and the 

The Cyhiraeth was a doleful cry proceeding from the home 
of a sick person, and traversing the way leading to the place 
of interment. Sometimes it assumed a sad, wailing sound, 
heard at a distance. Occasionally it sounded like a smothered 
shriek, or a rushing noise resembling the whirring of birds' 
wings, or a flight of starlings. When heard on the seashore it 
foretokened wrecks. If the moaning passed up and down 
among the houses in a hamlet or village, it indicated epidemics. 

The Tolaeth was only apparent to one sense at a time. When 
heard it could not be seen, and it could not be heard if anybody 
saw it in any form. 

As a rule, the Tolaeth is described as rapping, or knocks, or 
heavy thuds. Sometimes it sounded like the shuffling or 
tramping of many feet, or the noise of people bearing a heavy 

The following experiences describe the Tolaeth in North and 
South Wales. 

A tailor living in Carnarvonshire said he always knew when 
a customer was going to die by the sounds he heard. One 
day he was repairing the breeches of a huntsman, and presently 
he heard a mysterious rapping or tapping on his work-table. 
If he set the l)reeches aside for a few moments whilst threading 
a needle or cutting a piece of cloth, the sounds ceased ; but 
when he took up the work again, the rapping or tapping was 
resumed. In this way he was able to foretell deaths in the 


A fisherman living on the shores of St. Bride's Bay said that 
for three successive nights in 1903 he was disturbed by the 
sounds downstairs of shuffling feet, doors opening, chairs 
being moved, and a grunting sound hke that of men laying 
down a heavy burden or load of something. The man was 
much troubled in mind about these noises, and mentioned the 
subject to his wife, who admitted having heard the same 
sounds. Both agreed that they were nothing less than the 
Tolaeth. The noises were only heard in the kitchen. A 
week later their only son was drowned, and his body was 
brought home on a ladder. The mysterious sounds were 
exactly reproduced. The shuffling of feet, moving of chairs, 
and grunting sounds of the men setting down the ladder with 
its burden — all were heard as in the solitary watches of the 

A man who was accustomed to letter breastplates for village 
carpenters and undertakers kept a stock of material for this 
purpose in a corner cupboard at the top of the stairs leading 
from the kitchen to his bedroom. He always knew when a death 
was going to happen in the district, because of the rappings, 
knocks, and rustling of trimmings in the comer cupboard. 

Even in the present day carpenters in the rural districts of 
Wales assert that they are often forewarned of a death by 
mysterious rappings and knockings among the timbers in the 

A curious story was told me by a Glamorgan carpenter. 
Early in 1904 an aged and much-respected man frequented 
the workshop. He had not long returned from America, 
where he had made a small fortune. Seeing a piece of 
timber in the end of the shop, the old man struck it with 
his stick. " That is the stuff for my coffin," said the old man. 
" There's plenty more like it," remarked the carpenter. " No, 
no," added the old man, who pointed out a peculiarity in the 
timber. A little controversy arose between the two men about 
the quality of the different timber on the premises. Before the 
old man left, he said, " That is to be the timber for me." 
The carpenter thought no more about the conversation, until 
one night, while working late, he quickly took up a piece of 
timber and laid it on his table. Suddenly he was disturbed by 


rappings and knocks. Thinking somebody sought admission, 
he several times called, "Come in/' but without response. 
Again and again he set to work measuring the pieces of timber 
he had taken up, and each time he touched it the rappings and 
tappings continued. He was called away, and did not return 
to his work until early the next morning, when he moved the 
piece of timber, and placed it against the wall. But no sooner 
had he done so than the noises were resumed, and in vexation 
he threw the timber into the yard ; but the apprentice replaced 
the piece among others of the same kind and quality. The 
carpenter then remembered that the piece of timber was the 
very one that the old man from America had bespoken 
for his coffin. Thereupon, believing the omen meant some- 
thing, he set the timber carefully aside. A week later the 
old man died, and the bespoken timber was used for his 

Mysterious coffin-making has been heard in many villages. 
An old woman in South Glamorgan said she knew when an 
important death was likely to happen in her locality ; for she 
said, " There is always a noise of coffin-making in the dead of 
the night in my grandson's workshop.'* This had been the 
experience of four generations of the same family. 

In a village a few miles west of Cardiff, a farmer had 
the following experience : He lived in a farm-house the 
east windows of which overlooked a carpenter's shop and 
small timber-yard. Just before midnight on a Sunday night, 
looking out of his window, he was startled by seeing a dim 
light burning in the shop. His thoughts immediately turned 
to thieves, who were apparently making free with his neigh- 
bour's goods. Dressing himself in haste, he quietly left the 
house and entered the narrow lane leading to the yard. When 
there, he distinctly heard the sounds of coffin-making. First 
thoughts prompted him to return indoors, as he was by this 
time under the impression that the carpenter had received 
a hurried order for a coffin. Second thoughts urged him 
forward, and, quietly crossing the yard, he approached the 
workshop, where the dim light was still burning. Through 
the open doorway he distinctly saw the big and burly form of 
a labourer who was well known to be a notorious poacher. 


Returning as quickly as possible, the farmer went down to 
the village, and sought the aid of the pohceman, who was just 
starting on his night beat. Both men went up the lane to the 
yard, but by this time the light had vanished, and no trace 
of the poacher could be seen. The door of the shop was tried. 
It was locked. Early next morning the farmer told the 
carpenter what he had seen, and both entered the workshop 
with the policeman. A careful examination showed that 
everything was in order. Apparently nothing had been 
touched, and there was absolutely no evidence that anyone 
had been in the building. But the farmer persisted in asserting 
he had seen the light and the poacher. The story was the topic 
of conversation in the village, and presently it reached the 
poacher's ears. He declared he was in Cardiff on that very 
night. A few weeks later the poacher was accidentally shot 
in a field beyond the farm. His body was conveyed to the 
workshop, and laid therein, pending the inquest. 

Folk-stories concerning the personification of Death are to 
be found in Wales. 

Evan Bach — " Little Evan '* — of Porthcawl, Glamorgan, 
desired to live to a very great age. When Death came to 
look for him at sixty, he thought it was " foolishly soon." 
Evan was very pleasant to Death, and invited him to be 
seated at the fireside corner of the settle. " I have no time/' 
said the visitor, " and there are several calls to make in this 
neighbourhood." " Half an hour isn't much to miss in a 
night," remarked Evan. " I am in a hurry, and you must come 
with me," said Death. " Isn't it a bit soon ?" asked Evan. 
" Only sixty, an' able to do a good many things 'fore I'm 
eighty." " That may be," said Death, rattling his bones 
ominously ; " but I have set my mind on having a man of your 
age to-night, or, at latest, to-morrow. People of sixty are 
getting too sure of themselves." " Well," said Evan, " there's 
Billy James down in Newton. He's jest gone sixty. Iss, 
indeed ; an' now I do come to think of it, Billy '11 be glad to 
go. He's had rheumaticks since he was forty. There's one 
to be a warnin', if you like." Death looked gravely into 
Evan Bach's eyes, and said : " I want a healthy man, of whom 
it shall be said, ' Died by the visitation of God.' " " Well, 


well, to be shure," said Evan ; ** an' I can tell you of one sound 
in wind and limb — just the thing for you. Iss, indeed ! An' 
that's Dewi Mawr [Big David] of Pyle. He can walk forty 
miles without feeling tired. Come, now, isn't that likely to 
suit ? You be uncommon hard to please." This with the 
rubbing of hands and a smile. " There's plenty riper then me 
down this way," continued Evan. " There's Ned of Merthyr 
Mawr, an' Jack o' Comelly, an' old Uncle Dick o' Newton, an' 
all of 'em over eighty." " Too old for me just now," said 
Death. *' Well, now," said Evan, " supposin' I wass to give 
you all my savin's — a big lump, too, only you'll keep it a secret, 
I know " — with a wink at Death — " jest on three thousand 
pound." " Money is of no use to me," said Death ; " but for 
once I will break my rule, if you are prepared to make a bargain 
with me." Evan was elated. " Dear anwyl [beloved], I will 
do anything you do like. Iss, indeed." Death lowered his 
voice, and said solemnly : " My terms are these : You must 
work more on the land than you have been doing since your 
savings reached three thousand pounds." " I will work agen 
every day but Sunday," said Evan. " You must support your 
old aunt, who has only parish pay." " Agreed. Iss, indeed !" 
exclaimed Evan. " You must give a new fishing-boat to your 
nephew who is soon to be married," said Death. *' To be 
shure. Iss, indeed !" exclaimed Evan. " And you must be 
more generous than you have been during the past few years," 
continued Death. " Anything you do tell me to do, I will do 
it. Iss, indeed," answered Evan. " Finally," said Death, 
*' you must give more to the poor-box and the collections in 
the parish church. If you fail in these things, I shall come for 
you." " But if I do all these things, and never fail, I shall 
live for ever," said Evan. " Nay," replied Death ; " but you 
shall live over a hundred years — that is, forty or so years from 
your sixtieth year." " Dear anwyl," said Evan, " I'd be satis- 
fied with comin' at ninety-nine. Iss, indeed!" Death went 
his way, and Evan kept his part of the bargain. Modryb 
(Aunt) Molly was in his house ; his nephew had the new boat ; 
he was wonderfully generous, and he gave handsomely to the 
collections and the poor-box in church. For many years all 
went well, but when he approached his ninetieth year he 


began to feel miserly. Modryb Molly was long dead ; his 
nephew was well off. Evan became selfish, and he gave less to 
the collection in church and the poor-box. When he was 
ninety-three all his good work ceased. A little later Death 
came for him. Evan pleaded for the other six years of life, 
but it was too late ; the bargain had failed. This story, called 
** Evan Bach," was popular in Glamorgan in the early part of 
the nineteenth century, and formed part of the repertoire of 
wandering minstrels. [Family Collection.'] 

A folk-story of the same period was well known in the first 
half of the nineteenth century. At Mellincourt, about four 
miles from Neath, lived Modryb Nan, who on several occasions 
had been carried off by main force over mountains and streams, 
through woods and glens, and returned again, but never would 
let people know what her experiences had been. Rumours 
were current that a few times in her life she had been visited 
by a stranger — a grim figure in a long grey cloak and a curious 
slouching grey hat. He had been seen, but his face was 
never visible, for the reason that people always observed him 
going to Modryb Nan's house, and never coming from it. 
They also heard something like the clanking of keys or 
fetters, as the stranger moved along. Modryb Nan's nephew 
came home from sea, and hoped while he remained ashore to 
solve the mystery of the stranger, if the latter paid a visit to 
his aunt. One night in December his wish was gratified. He 
slept upstairs, and as there were wide cracks and small 
holes in the flooring, anybody could play the spy therefrom. 
In the dead of the night Jack, who was snoring, heard a 
knock at the cottage door. Modryb Nan, who slept on the 
ground floor, did not immediately hear the knock, which was 
repeated thrice. Then she got up, and called out, " Who's 
there ?" Somebody answered, " You know who.*' Modryb 
Nan unbolted the door, and Jack from the flooring saw the 
grey-cloaked stranger entering, while his aunt sat down on 
the settle. " I am come for you," said the stranger." " Sit 
a bit," replied Nan ; " I'm not quite ready. It's a cold night." 
And she shivered. Some talking went on, and presently the 
stranger threw his cloak off, revealing no more nor less than a 
complete skeleton. Jack shook with fear, ^d eagerly watched 



the couple. " This is the third time of asking/* said the 
stranger, " and to-night I come to claim my bride." Modryb 
Nan moved uneasily on the settle. Then there was more 
whispering between the pair, and presently the skeleton seized 
the old woman and compelled her to dance with it. Wildly 
they whirled, until Modryb Nan was giddy, and begged per- 
mission to rest. While she did so the skeleton resumed its 
cloak and hat, and prepared for departure. It threw the door 
wide open, snatched Modryb Nan under its arm, and when 
Jack went to his window to look out into the dim moonUght, 
he saw a grey horse waiting, upon which there was a bundle. 
The skeleton, placing Nan in front, mounted the horse, and 
rode away like hghtning. The people said Death had come 
for Modryb Nan, who was never again seen. [0. S. and C. D.] 
Dewi of Cwmdyfran, near Carmarthen, cheated Death 
twice, according to an old folk-story. He entered into a com- 
pact with the devil by which the latter should have his soul if 
he saved him from Death until he reached his hundredth 
birthday. This the devil promised to do without fail. So he 
gave Dewi instructions that when Death approached or 
knocked at the door for admission, he was to have ready a 
sack filled with old rags. This was to be tied around the neck 
with one of Dewi's cravats, and on the mouth of the sack an 
old hat was to be placed. Dewi was to go into the cupboard 
near the bed, and snore loudly. When Death came and 
knocked Dewi snored and snored. After three knocks, Death 
called upon Dewi to answer, but there was no response. " He 
sleeps soundly," said Death, and Dewi heard him. Growing 
impatient. Death forced the window, seized the rag figure, 
and fled, leaving Dewi to laugh heartily. The next time 
Death came Dewi again cheated him in the same way. When 
Death paid his third visit Dewi was ninety. It was his birth- 
day, and the old man had celebrated it with his friends in a 
convivial manner. Upon reaching home, Dewi went to bed, 
and when Death knocked at the door he was fast asleep and 
snoring. He did not hear his visitor, and therefore could not 
put the rag effigy in the bed. Death entered by the window, 
and seized Dewi, who, awakened by a rough shaking, tried to 
wrestle with his visitor. In vain he struggled and lamented 


his lapse. He failed this time to cheat Death. When his 
neighbours came in the morning they remembered his story 
about how he had cheated Death twice, and meant to be 
**up-sides" with him the third time. ''After all/' said the 
neighbours, '' he had lived long enough, and 'twas better to 
die than live to a hundred, and then give his soul to the devil !" 
This old tale was sometimes called ** The Lucky Escape of Dewi 
Cwmdyfran." [A.B, and C. D.] 

Similar stories were formerly told in many parts of the 
Principality, and some of them had morals attached, or were 
related in a manner to inspire awe in people who boasted of the 
longevity of themselves or relatives. When men passed over 
eighty-six, they invariably said they were " good for another 
twenty years.'' Very often their assertions were true. 

10 — 2 



TRANSFORMATIONS from human shapes to those of 
animals, birds, and sometimes flowers, are illustrated 
by many old stories connected with the folk-lore of Wales. 

In '* The Mabinogion '' account of Math, the son of Math- 
onwy, the story of Blodenwedd is beautifully told. It has 
already been stated that this lovely lady was changed into an 
owl by Gwydion. Before her transformation into a bird, she 
was the wife* of Llew Llaw G3^es, *' the lion with the steady 
hand," and her romantic origin illustrates the wonderful magic 
powers of Gwydion. 

Arianrod, the mother of Llew, declared that her son should 
never have a wife *' of the race that now inhabits the earth." 
Whereupon Gwydion said : " A wife he shaU have, notwith- 
standing." The magician then went to Math, the son of 
Mathonwy, and complained of Arianrod's malice. Math 
promptly decided to seek by charms and illusions *' to form a 
wife for him out of flowers." Then, it is said, the two magi- 
cians. Math and Gwydion, took ** the blossoms of the oak, and 
the blossoms of the broom, and the blossoms of the meadow- 
sweet, and produced from them a maiden, the fairest and most 
graceful that man ever saw. And they baptized her, and gave 
her the name of Blodenwedd." 

Llew Llaw Gyftes was delighted with the bride, known as 
" Flower Aspect," and they lived happily together until the 
latter fell in love with the Lord of Penllyn. Then the beau- 
tiful wife plotted like Delilah, and found means to kill her 
rightful lord, who, though pierced with a poisoned dart, was 

♦ ** The Mabinogion/' p. 426. 



transformed into an eagle. He was discovered by Gwydion, 
and ultimately restored to human form. With Gwydion and 
others, Llew returned to his rightful possessions and the 
palace of Mur-y-CasteU. When Blodenwedd heard that her 
husband was returning, she fled to the mountain. Through 
fear, the guilty Princess and her maidens kept looking back- 
ward,* and '* unawares fell into the lake." All the lovely 
maidens were drowned, excepting Blodenwedd herself, and she 
was overtaken by Gwydion. In the words of the Mabinogi, 
he said to her : " I will not slay thee, but I will do unto thee 
worse than that, for I will turn thee into a bird ; and because 
of the shame thou hast done unto Llew Llaw Gyffes, thou 
shalt never show thy face in the light of day henceforth, and 
that through fear of all the other birds. For it shall be their 
nature to attack thee, and to chase thee from wheresoever 
they may find thee. And thou shalt not lose thy name, but 
shalt always be called Blodenwedd." 

The Llyn-y-Morwynion, or Lake of the Maidens, where the 
unfortunate ladies were drowned, is not far from the Cynfael, 
or Festiniog River. 

According to local folk-lore, the mist that arises from the 
C5mfael is the spirit or wraith of a traitress, possibly the 
beautiful but faithless Princess of Gwynedd. 

In the same Mabinogi, Gwydion, by means of magic, trans- 
formed Gilvaethwy first into a deer, then into a hog, after- 
wards into a wolf, and lastly back again into human form. 

Gwrgi Garwlwyd, whose name is mentioned with Medrod 
and Aeddan in the triads, was called in English the " rough 
brown dog-man." He was a cannibal, and for his atrocities 
as an eater of human flesh he was killed by Difedell, a Welsh 
Prince, whose murderous attack on the dog-man is celebrated 
in the triads as justifiable homicide. 

In the Mabinogi of Manawyddan, the son of Llyr,t the wife 
of Llwyd, the son of Kilcoed, was turned into a mouse, and 
at his death King Arthur was transformed into the shape of 
a raven, for which reason the peasantry of Wales, Cornwall, 
and Brittany will not kill that bird. 

The power of assuming animal shape is illustrated by many 

♦ "The Mabinogion/' p. 431. t ^bid,, p. 409. 


old Welsh stories, in which men are changed into a wolf or 
hog, a raven, an eagle, or a hawk ; while the women become 
swans, wild geese, serpents, cats, mice, or birds. 

These metamorphoses were either voluntary or compulsory. 
Invariably the important personage or wizard assumed the 
shape that best suited his purposes, or he doomed a man to wear 
it in vengeance or punishment. The lesser people had their 
shapes changed with or without the aid of any wizard or witch. 

From these ancient myths probably arose the belief in later 
ages that certain people could be transformed by magical 
aid into various shapes, or were directly descended from 

With reference to the former, the following stories have been 
well authenticated, though, for obvious reasons, the names of 
the families cannot be divulged. 

In the last half of the eighteenth century the tale was extant 
that the son of a rich landowner in North Wales exercised 
peculiar and evil influences over his own eldest brother and heir 
to the estate. When the father died the heir mysteriously 
disappeared) and the second son succeeded to the inheritance. 
Wherever the new squire went, he was accompanied by a white 
crow with black wings. In the course of a few years, just 
before going to London, the Squire was persuaded by his 
friends to leave the crow at home. He did so, and, after 
remaining in London for a few weeks, he started on his home- 
ward journey, but halted at Shrewsbury. WTiile there he 
visited a friend. One night, while at dinner, the door was 
blown open by a gust of wind, and the white crow flew in, and 
perched itself upon the Squire's shoulder. The company ex- 
pressed surprise, but the Squire assured them that the bird 
was his most faithful friend. During dinner the crow kept to 
its perch, but as the party entered the drawing-room a pet 
dog chased the bird, and a quarrel ensued. One of the visitors, 
in attempting to strike the dog, accidentally struck the bird. 
The crow, croaking piteously, wheeled around twice, and then 
fell dead. The Squire, who had lingered behind talking to his 
host, pressed forward, and, seeing the dead white crow, cried : 
" Alas ! you have killed one who was to me like a brother !" 
Then, turning to his host, he begged leave to proceed home 


at once ; " for/' said he, " I have but three weeks more to 
live." The host and his guests regarded the Squire's remarks 
as peculiar, and credited him with being superstitious. Three 
weeks later the Squire died, as he prophesied, and it was 
rumoured that, according to the terms of a spell by which the 
brother disappeared and was transformed into a crow> the 
owner of the latter could only survive the bird three weeks. 
The third brother succeeded to the estates, and to this day, 
before a death in the family, a white crow with black wings 
appears in or near the house. [Family Collection,] 

A small farm in Breconshire was occupied by a tenant whose 
ancestors had the reputation of being remarkably ugly and 
very eccentric. The man himself had exceedingly pointed 
and hairy ears, and his seven children inherited this peculiarity. 
Three or four generations of the same family had occupied the 
farm, and the father of the fourth succession left it owing 
to a windfall. The neighbours rejoiced at this departure, for 
everybody secretly feared " the wolves," as they were called. 
It was rumoured that the family traced its origin to a race 
of people, half men and half wolves, which formerly inhabited 
the forests of Wales. After the family left the farm, people 
said the shadow of the wolf-man haunted the place. In the 
course of time, it is said, the farm fell under a ban. Flocks and 
herds died ; the hay-crops were meagre ; the com would not 
ripen, and yield of fruit ceased. It was generally believed that 
this place had been cursed because the wolf-man and his 
family had received notice to quit. Tenant after tenant left 
the unlucky house, and before the first half of the nineteenth 
century it became a complete ruin. [^4. B,] 

The story of a wolf-woman comes from Mid- Wales. A 
young man met a very pretty but impulsive girl on the borders 
of Radnorshire. He loved her very much, but had to " put 
up " with her violent temper. By-and-by adversity came, 
and the man could not any longer bring sufficient food into 
the house to feed himself, his wife, and child. The wife 
declared she would have enough to eat, even if she begged, 
borrowed, or stole it. True to her words, she obtained a con- 
stant supply of meat, and after the first few weeks the husband 
became fearful lest she had stolen it. He told her of his 


trouble, and she promised to reveal her secret, provided he 
did not call her by name during the revelation. Then she led 
him away to a lonely spot, where a few lambs had strayed from 
the fold. Quietly the woman went towards one of the lambs, 
and afterwards uttered a few words. Instantly she was 
changed into a wolf, and when in that form, she seized a lamb 
and ran off into the woods with it. Later on she came home, 
as usual, laden with meat. But one day, when doing this, 
a farmer, with his dogs, chased the wolf, and the husband in 
terror exclaimed : " Come home, Gwenllian — come home V 
The wolf vanished, and on the field, in its stead, lay his wife, 
bereft of every shred of clothing. From that moment every- 
body called her the " wolf-woman." After the revelation of 
the secret the wife was never again able to get meat without 
paying for it. [/. i?.] 

In old Welsh stories the wolf-people's eyebrows are de- 
scribed as meeting in a point near the bridge of the nose. 

An old story, prevalent in many parts of Wales, was to 
the effect that in former times witches were capable of trans- 
forming men into werewolves. The men thus treated became 
wolves for three, seven, or nine days, or as many years. The 
peasantry said that werewolves only thirsted for the blood of 
yoimg children and maidens, and in order to satisfy their thirst, 
they carried their victims away to the woods. There they 
sucked the blood until death ensued ; then the werewolf left 
the body in disgust. 

Wenvoe and Cadoxton-juxta-Barry, Glamorgan, were credited 
with having werewolves. A man bom early in the nineteenth 
century remembered hearing his father talking about the 
Witch of Wenvoe having a spite against a yoimg man who 
once proposed marriage to her niece, then jilted her. The man 
lived in Wenvoe neax the Bear's Wood, and the girl resided at 
Cadoxton, some little distance away. A year or so afterwards 
the man jilted his sweetheart and married another girl. The 
JVitch of Wenvoe twisted her girdle and laid it on the threshold 
of the bride's house. The married couple stepped over it into 
the house, and, to the surprise of everybody, the bridegroom 
was turned into a werewolf. He rushed away to the Bear's 
Wood, and the bride was left disconsolate. Every night the 


werewolf ran howling around the witch's house, to the terror of 
everybody in the village. He frequented Cadoxton, and his 
pitiful cries nearly distracted his former sweetheart. So 
shocked was his poor bride that she pined away and died in 
less than a year. Then the Witch of Wenvoe, wishing to have 
the man for her niece, threw a charmed lamb-skin over the 
werewolf, and he resumed his human shape. Later on he 
married the witch's niece, but treated her so badly that the 
aunt once more bewitched him, and soon afterwards died. 
After her death no charm could restore him to human shape, 
and as a werewolf he remained to the day of his death, about 
nine years later. The narrator of this story said the people 
called him the " wild man of the woods," and when he was 
accidentally shot there was much rejoicing. 

There used to be an old story told in Mabsant days of 
an innkeeper's wife at Candleston, Newton, or Cornelly, all 
near Porthcawl, who, for her cheating propensities, was 
transformed by a wizard into a wild goose for more than a 
year. In this shape she flitted along the dreary tracts of sand 
stretching away towards Aberavon and Margam. One day 
the wild goose quarrelled with other geese, and in a sharp 
encounter, the enchanted woman lost a piece of ribbon that 
was tied to her wing, and by which she was known from 
the other birds. The loss of the ribbon broke the spell, 
and the innkeeper's wife was able to reassume her human 

Swan-women in Welsh lore are closely connected with the 
fairies, and many stories are told of these. But there are 
several instances in which the swan shape has been given as a 
punishment for neglect of duty. 

The most notable of these is the story of Grace, or, as she is 
caUed in Wales, Grassi. 

At Glasfr)^! in Lleyn, Carnarvonshire, there is a small lake, 
which, according to tradition, owes its origin to the following 
circumstances : In former ages a well was on the spot, and it 
was called " Grace's Well."* A maiden named Grassi was 
the keeper of this well, over which there was a door. When 

* Rev. Elias Owen, '* Welsh Folk-lore," p. 256 ; Rhys, ** Celtic 
Folk-lore,** pp. 367-372, 394, 401, 


people wanted water, Grassi opened the door, and carefully 
shut it immediately sufficient water had been taken. One 
day the maiden forgot to shut the well. Owing to this, the 
waters overflowed and formed a lake. For her neglect of this 
important duty she was instantly changed into a swan. In 
this form she is said to have haunted the lake for more than 
three hundred years, and always about 2 a.m. she was heard 
crying plaintively. The lonely lake is now frequented by 
swans. Grassi never resumed her human shape, but it is 
said her wraith, robed in a soft white silk gown, walks around 
Glasfryn House, and haunts Cae'r Ladi, or the Lady's Field. 
The former tenants of Glasfryn could not keep servants in the 
house, because it had the reputation of being haunted by 
Grassi, who kept the ancient well. 

Old Morgan, an ogre, is said to be dwelling at the bottom of 
this lake, and when the children are naughty in the district 
they are told that " Morgan will swallow them." 

On the wild coast of Gower, and with reference to Whitmore 
Bay, Barry Island, in Glamorgan, the following stories used to 
be told : In connection with the former it was said that a 
young farmer, while busy working in a field near the sea, saw 
a beautiful swan ahghting among the rocks. There she laid 
aside her feathers and wings, turned herself into a lovely 
maiden, bathed in the waters, and after a time put on her 
swan shape and flew away. This he saw repeated on several 
occasions ; so one day he lay in wait for the swan, and as 
soon as she was in the water he seized her bird garments. The 
beautiful maiden came from her sea-bath, knelt before the 
young man, and begged him to restore her swan wings. But 
he would not. He loved her so much that they were soon 
married, and for three years the swan maiden was a faithful 
but plaintive-voiced wife. Her husband carefully preserved 
the swan's wings and feathers, and generally kept them under 
lock and key. But one day he chanced to leave the old oaken 
chest open, and from it his wife took the swan wings and 
feathers, and flew away. Her husband reached home, to see 
his beautiful swan-wife with outstretched wings slowly flying 
into the sunset, and as she went, her voice could be heard 
plaintively crying farewell. The man so bitterly lamented his 


loss that he pined away and died within a few months of his 
wife's departure. 

The story of Whitmore Bay was well known in the early 
part of the nineteenth century. A young man from Rhoose 
went to visit a friend at Cadoxton-juxta-Barry. At that time 
it was only possible to reach Barry Island when the tide was 
out. For the purpose of shooting wild-fowl the young men 
crossed to the island, and soon reached the broad and sandy 
expanse of Whitmore Bay. There they lingered, and forgot 
the time until sunset, when the rising tide had surrounded the 
island, and made their return for some time impossible. To 
while away the period between the flow and the ebb, the young 
men went to the Friar's Point. There among the rocks they 
saw two swans. Thinking they would be fine birds to cap- 
ture, the young men went nearer, and when they fixed their 
gaze upon the birds, it was to see them changed into very 
lovely maidens, who forthwith began to plunge up and down 
in the sea. Then gently the men went among the rocks, and 
gathered the two sets of swan wings and feathers, so that the 
maidens were obUged to beg and pray for them when they 
came out of the water. But the men refused, and the swan- 
maidens were forced to promise to become the wives of their 
captors. Ultimately the wife of the Cadoxton man was acci- 
dentally killed by being run over by a waggon, and when the 
people went to pick her up she quitted her human form, and 
flew away in the shape of a swan. The man of Rhoose, after 
seven years of happy married life, threw the swan-wings, with 
other rubbish, out into the farmyard. His wife went to 
examine the collection, and, finding the old plumage, put it 
on. A few minutes later the husband saw his wife slowly 
flying away in the shape of a swan. The children of these 
marriages were said to be somewhat conspicuous by reason of 
their swan-shaped necks. [Family Collection.] 

A young man in Radnorshire had the reputation of being 
very cruel to cats. On his wedding-day he saw a cat crossing 
his path, and immediately he threw a stone at it. From that 
moment his health failed, and occasionally he went away to 
recuperate his strength. During his absences people said he 
was transformed into a cat, and ran wild about the woods. 


After his death it was gravely stated that in cat shape he 
wandered in lonely parts of the district, and was a terror to 
naughty children. 

An old superstition in the South of the Principahty places 
all sandy-haired people and those with dull red hair among 
the races descended from foxes. 

About a century ago there were several dens of foxes well 
known to people on the seaboard of the Vale of Glamorgan. 
Because these could never be caught, killed, or trapped, the 
country folk attributed to them superhuman attributes. It 
was gravely asserted that these animals were very old, and 
twice a year — at midsummer and midwinter — they were able 
to change themselves into human shape, and prowl about the 
lonely villages and hamlets. Whenever a vagrant with sandy 
hair appeared, the housewife promptly gave him something 
good to eat, and sent him away with a blessing. Then the 
" old fox " would not harm the children. The fox men and 
women were said to be quiet and playful if pleased and fed, 
but dangerous when angry and famished. 

In the eighteenth century a fox that frequented the woods 
near Porthkerry, South Glamorgan, was known as " Catti 
Cwmciddy/' the " c " being pronounced as " k." This meant 
Catherine of Cwmciddy. Everybody knew this fox, by 
reason of a grey patch across its shoulders, and people at a 
distance said that twice a year Catti might be seen in her human 
shape if anybody cared to roam through the woods of Porth- 
kerry between sunset and sunrise during the three longest 
and three shortest days in the year. 

Llancarfan Woods, in the same part of Glamorgan, had 
more than one semi-human fox, so the old people said ; and 
TresiUian Cave, on the shore between Llantwit Major and 
St. Donat's, was the reputed haunt of similar foxes. These 
latter, according to tradition, were, when in human shape, 
notorious wreckers, who hid their ill-gotten gain in Tresillian 
Cave, which had a subterranean passage leading to St. Donat's 
Castle. Old folk-tales describe the spot as " Reynard's 
Cave," afterwards changed to " Reynold's Cave "; and people 
said the wreckers and smugglers who frequented the place 
had obtained from Kate the Witch a charm which trans- 


formed them into foxes when the emissaries of the law came in 
pursuit. Kate the Witch Hved in a farm called '* Flanders/' 
an old, half Flemish, half Celtic homestead in the neighbour- 

To assume the shape of a snake, witches prepared charms 
and amulets for themselves and others, said sometimes a ban 
was placed upon enemies, by means of which they involun- 
tarily became snakes for a time. 

Two stories about snake-people — one from the North and 
one from the South of Wales — will illustrate this old super- 

A young farmer in Anglesea went on a visit to South Wales, 
and there, not far from Swansea, met a very handsome girl. 
Her eyes appear to have attracted everybody, especially the 
young man from the North. They were described as " some- 
times blue, sometimes grey, and sometimes like emeralds," 
and they " glittered and sparkled like diamonds." 

In due course the Swansea maiden was wooed and won by 
the Anglesea man. On the eve of the wedding the bride-elect 
told her husband to be that twice a year she would be 
obliged to leave him for fourteen days each time. He was not 
to question her as to where she was going, or to whom. The 
husband agreed. For the first few years the periodical dis- 
appearances of his wife did not trouble him in the least. He 
was perfectly satisfied with his wife's outgoing and incoming. 
But by-and-by the spirit of curiosity was roused in him by his 
own mother, who had been trying to solve the mystery of 
her daughter-in-law's repeated absences. Advised by his 
mother, he disguised himself, and followed his wife to a lonely 
part of the woodlands surrounding their home. Hidden by a 
huge rock, he saw his wife removing the girdle from her waist, 
after which she threw it into the deep grass beside a dark pool. 
A moment later his wife had vanished, and where she stood a 
large and handsome snake went gliding through the grass. 
The man chased it, but the snake swiftly passed into a large 
hole near the pool. The husband went home, and for fourteen 
days eagerly waited his wife's return. When she came, he 
questioned her closely about her absence, but she refused 
information, and only blushed in silence when he asked her 


what she did with her girdle in the woods. Just before the 
time for the next absence approached he secreted his wife's 
girdle, and for several days the woman's departure was de- 
ferred. To his astonishment, his wife was seized with a 
sudden illness. Then the man, hoping to get rid of a baneful 
charm, threw the girdle into the fire. His wife's agony was 
very severe, and when the girdle was consumed the woman 
died. For this reason the people in that part of Anglesea 
called her the " Snake-woman of the South." [A. B.] 

The next story is more gruesome in its details. 

A shoemaker in the Vale of Taff married a widow for her 
money, and in the course of time was not too kind to her. 
Soon the rumour was current that the shoemaker and his wife 
had serious quarrels, and words turned to blows. The neigh- 
bours remarked it as strange that the shoemaker's wife con- 
stantly appeared in their midst without even a bruise or the 
trace of a blow upon her person. Yet cries in the night were 
heard, and deep groans, and much commotion. One night a 
prying person found ways and means of witnessing the twain 
quarrelling. The spy secreted himself in a loft over the kitchen, 
and through the cracks in the flooring he beheld much, but 
said nothing. It was at last declared that the spy was " paid 
by the shoemaker for keeping the family secret." Ultimately 
the spy and the shoema^ker had a dispute over a boundary 
wall, and then the truth was revealed. The spy said that 
when angry words cropped up between the husband and wife, 
the latter assumed, from the shoulders upward, the shape of a 
snake, and deliberately and maliciously sucked her partner's 
blood, and pierced him with her venomous fangs. Hence 
the cries and groans in the night. Never a mark was left on 
the man's body, but in time the poor feUow became emaciated, 
and was ailing for months, after which he died. At his death 
the doctor expressed his opinion that he died from the " poison 
and stings of a venomQus serpent." This settled the matter 
to the credit of the spy. But both the spy and the doctor were 
found in a helpless condition in the churchyard at sunrise one 
morning. When roused from what might have been a fatal 
slumber, they said the shoemaker's widow invited them to 
taste her metheglin, and drink to the memory of her dear 


departed second husband. They did so, and, in revenge for 
the tales that had been circulated, the woman sprang upon 
them, and stung them severely. After fighting against her 
for some time, they were exhausted, and crawled to the church- 
yard, where they would have died, if a neighbour had not roused 
them from the torpor which had bewildered them. The shoe- 
maker's widow vanished from their midst, and was never again 
seen ; but for many years afterwards a snake that was fre- 
quently visible in the neighbourhood, and could not by any 
means be killed, was called in Welsh " the old snake- woman.*' 
[Family Collection.] 

Toad-men and frog-women are found in Welsh lore, and 
of these the following instances are well authenticated : 

An old grange in Glamorgan had the reputation of being 
haunted by a weU-known M.F.H., who strode forth at mid- 
night, mounted his favourite horse, and led the hounds to the 
meet. People heard, the cry of the huntsmen and the yelping 
of the hounds, and shrank in terror at the sounds. 

In later years the lodge of the grange was occupied by a 
labourer and his wife, who had but one child, a boy born in 
another neighbourhood. When the family came to the 
lodge the child was about three years of age, but was never 
seen walking. By-and-by the truth came out that the child 
was malformed, and could only move after the fashion of a 
toad. In the course of time he was called the " toad-boy." 

The child developed into youth, but was good for nothing, 
said the people. Still, he appears to have been fairly intelli- 
gent, though sharp in speech and often spiteful. His parents 
were kind and pa;tient, and bore their sorrow with great forti- 

One day the master's pet dog flew at the lad and bit his leg, 
inflicting a painful, but not a dangerous, woimd. The lad 
took the attack to^ heart so much that he gradually pined away 
and died. 

A few days before his death he cried, "I'll pay them back," 
meaning the master of the grange and his wife, who owned the 

The youth was buried in a neighbouring churchyard, and in 
less than a year the parents left the place. It was rumoured 


that they never had any peace in the lodge after the boy died. 
Other people came to the lodge, who declared that the car- 
riage drive was haunted by a shape of mystery resembling a 
toad, and the house was troubled by the same evil creature. 
At last, after repeated tenants, the lodge was deserted, and 
to this day the people in the district declare that the place 
is haunted by the toad-man ! [0. S.] 

A frog-woman was known to frequent the road between 
Llandaff and Cardiff. Country people said she was only to be 
seen on moonlight nights. It was rumoured that she belonged 
to a " high family,'' but had been sent " out of the way '* 
to live with the wife of an agricultural labourer near Llandaff, 
who was paid for keeping her. This woman had the move- 
ments of a frog, and her croak was unmistakable. Eventually 
she fell into the River Taff, and for many years afterwards 
people believed that about midnight on moonlight nights the 
frog-woman could be heard croaking and screaming for help 
to get out of the dark waters. [0, S.] 

Transformation from human to bird or animal shape is ac- 
companied by stories of the transmigration of the soul. 

It is stated that when M. Henri Martin, the French author, 
visited South Wales, he found the peasantry still believed in 
the transmigration of souls.* Traces of this belief existed 
between fifty and sixty years ago in the remote parts of the 
Principality, where some of the people asserted that the spirit 
of a wizard or witch descended from body to body for three, 
seven, or nine generaitions. 

The history of Taliesin is the oldest Welsh story of the 
transmigration of the soul. In this story Gwyddno Garanhir 
is described as asking Taliesin what he was, whether man or 
spirit, whereupon Taliesin answered : 

** First I have been formed a comely person. 
In the Court of Ceridwen I have done penance. 
Though little I was seen, placidly received, 
I was great on the floor of the place to where I was led. 
I have been a prized defence, the sweet muse the 'cause. 
And by law without speech I have been liberated. 
By a smiling black hag, when irritated 
Dreadful her claim when pursued. 
I have fled with vigour, I have fled as a frog, 

♦ Rhys, ''Celtic Folk-lore,'' Preface. 



I have fled in the semblance of a crow scarcely finding rest ; 
I have fled vehemently, I have fled as a chain ; 
I have fled as a roe into an entangled thicket ; 
I have fled as a wolf cub ; 
I have fled as a wolf in a wilderness ; 
• I have fled as a thrush of portending language ; 
I have fled as a fox, used to concurrent bounds of quirks ; 
I have fled as a martin, which did not avail ; 
I have fled as a squirrel, that vainly hides ; 
I have fled as a stag's antler of ruddy course ; 
I have fled as iron in a glowing fire ; 

I have fled as a spear-head of woe to such as has a wish for it ; 
I have fled as a fierce bull bitterly fighting ; 
I have fled as a bristly bear seen in a ravine ; 
I have fled as a white grain of pure wheat, 
On the skirt of a hempen sheet entangled. 
That seemed the size of a mare's foal, 
That is filling like a ship on the waters ; 
Into a dark leathern bag I was thrown, 
And on a boundless sea I was sent adrift, 
Which was to me an omen of being tenderly nursed. 
And the Lord God then set me at liberty."* 

There was an old Welsh belief that new-born babes who 
died immediately after their birth became a new kind of flower 
on the land. 

Very old women were peculiar with regard to children until 
they reached the age of six, because their souls might be taken 
away by their first owners. A person bom in the early part of 
the nineteenth century asserted that when his sister died at the 
age of five, his grandmother said : *' I knew she would not 
live long. She had the soul of my grandmother. I could see 
it in her. And the old woman could not stay long in one 
place !'* 

An aged woman said that her grandmother referred to one 
of her children as *' old Modryb Gwen come back to life again." 
She had also heard old people connected with farms referring 
to horses and dogs as having almost human characteristics. 
*' He was a good man once,'' they would say of a horse or a 
dog ; or, in the case of a female animal, it would be : " She 

* Taliesin was the laureate of the Christian bards or poets of the 
sixth century. Translations of his poems appear in Thomas Stephen's 
*' Literature of the Kymry,*' in Professor WilUam Skene's Four 
Ancient Books of Wales,'' and one of his most brilliant compositions 
was contained in the manuscript collection of William Morris of Gare- 
gybi, who lived in 1758. There are also poems and particulars of this 
poet by Dr. Owen Pughe in the Cambrian Quarterly, the lolo Manu- 
scripts, Jones's ** Welsh Bards," and the " Myfyrian Archaeology." 



was a woman of spirit and mettle/' perhaps adding, " more's 
the pity, poor thing '/' 

When a child was too precocious or wise for its age, people 
in Wales would say : " He has been in the world before." 
When a child looked prematurely old they said : " This is his 
third chance in the world." They did not know their ancestors 
believed in that literally. These expressions are still in use. 

If any person suffered from haemorrhage, or lost blood 
owing to a severe cut, or had bleeding of the nose, a great dread 
seized his neighbours, who believed that if the blood could 
not be quickly stanched, he would lose his soul. The latter 
was supposed to pass with the flowing of blood. Aged people 
in the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth centuries 
believed that the seat of the soul was in the blood. 

Trances and catalepsy were known in Wales in the eighteenth 
century, and in some parts so late as the first quarter of the 
nineteenth century. It was then gravely asserted that the 
soul had left the body, and would not return until the sleeper 
awoke. It was customary in such cases to ask the sleeper 
where he or she had been in the interval. On one occasion a 
Carmarthenshire girl living in Glamorgan was asked to relate 
her experiences through a slumber of fourteen days, during 
which time she neither spoke nor took food, and was only sus- 
tained by the moisture of a feather dipped in cream and 
applied to her lips. She stated that she found herself flying 
through the air at great speed, and soon reached a very high 
mountain with a door in the side of it. There she was met by 
a crowd of people all beautifully dressed. The strangers led her 
into a hall, where, at a banquet. Kings and Queens, with crowns 
on their heads, were seated. From the hall she was conducted 
through beautiful rooms into lovely gardens, where flowers and 
fruits grew in profusion and the sunshine was glorious. From 
this her friends judged she had been in heaven during her long 
sleep. [A. B. and Family Collection.'] 

A man rescued from drowning at Breaksea Point, on the coast 
of Glamorgan, fimUy believed that while efforts were being 
made to restore animation, his soul left his body. This hap- 
pened in his twenty-fifth year, an age when experiences seldom 
fail to leave indelible traces upon the memory. To the last 


years of his life he retained a vivid recollection of his sensations. 
He felt conscious that, a few minutes after being conxpletely 
submerged, his soul or spirit felt an unusual sense of freedom. 
He seemed to be gazing down on his helpless body, to be watch- 
ing its rescue, and the subsequent efforts for restoring anima- 
tion. He recognized both the rescuers and those who readily 
helped in the work of restoration. Then he felt conscious that 
his soul re-entered his body, and a keen sense of imprisonment 
succeeded the previous sensation of delightful freedom. In 
proof of his perfect knowledge of all that took place while his 
soul was absent from his body, he mentioned having seen two 
sailors fighting near a wrecked ship among the rocks. They 
were fighting for a keg of spirits, probably rum. It was a 
moonlight evening, and he saw them distinctly. Those en- 
gaged in restoring animation to his body declared nothing of 
the kind happened. But a few days later the two sailors 
admitted they had fought over a keg of rum. To the last 
hour of his life the man who had been rescued from drowning 
declared that the memory of his experiences would remain fresh 
until his soul could finally quit his body. [Family Collection,] 

It was formerly a common belief that every soul after 
leaving the body hovered between earth and the moon. 
Vestiges of this, by force of habit, were prevalent in the first 
half of the nineteenth century ; for it was customary among 
husbands and wives in a joking way to threaten that, if their 
partner married again too soon, they would torment the person 
by hovering over him or her between the earth and the moon. 

Aged people used to say that white moths were the souls of 
the dead, who in this form were allowed to take farewell of 
the earth. 'When any kind of moth fluttered around a candle, 
people said somebody was dying, and the soul was passing. 

When a ship foundered or was wrecked, the watchers said 
the souls of the victims ascended to heaven in the shape of 

The first-bom daughters of an ancient Welsh race were 
turned into doves if they died unmarried, while the married 
ones became owls. The death of each female member of the 
family was presaged by the appearance of these birds or " by 
their bite " or pecking. 

20 — 2 


Shooting stars were supposed to be the souls of dying 
Druids and bards. When a shooting star was seen, people 
said, " Another Druid or bard is dead/' 

The custom of burning or breaking empty eggshells is said to 
have arisen from the belief that souls were supposed to sail 
over the River of Death in them, and unless they were smashed, 
witches would get in and disturb the soul in its passage. 

In all the old stories of King Arthur his soul was supposed to 
be conveyed away by ship. A swan-ship conveying corpses 
was an old Celtic belief, and generally it was without sail or 

The ancient Celtic bards believed that, in order to reach the 
underworld, souls were obUged to sail over the Pool of Dread 
and dead bones, across the Vale of Death into the sea, on whose 
shore there stands the open mouth of hell's abyss.* 

Procopius the Byzantine recorded a story with reference 
to the passing of souls from Gaul to Britain. He stated 
that on the coast of the Continent, and under the Frankish 
sovereignty, there were fishermen and farmers exempt from 
taxation, whose duty it was to ferry the souls of the dead to 
Britain. They undertook this duty in turn. Those to whom 
this duty fell went to bed at dusk. At midnight they heard 
loud knocking at their doors, and muffled voices calling them. 
Immediately the men got up, went to the shore, and there 
saw empty boats — not their own, but strange ones. These they 
boarded, and at once seized the oars. When the boat was 
under way they saw that it was " laden choke-full," with its 
gunwales scarcely an inch above the water. Yet they did not 
see anybody. Upon arriving at *' Brittia," the boat was 
quickly unloaded, and became almost dangerously light. 
Neither during the voyage nor on landing did they see any- 
body, but they heard a voice loudly asking each invisible pas- 
senger his name and country. Women gave their husbands' 
names, rank, and position. 

In old Druidical lore the clouds were composed of the souls 

of men who had recently quitted earth, and their influence 

either inspired courage or struck terror into armies and 

people. These souls were capable of terrifying mortals with 

* Davies, ** Mythology/' p. 231. 



bowlings, cries, apparitions, and luminous phantoms. Their 
agency was seen in dreams and nightmares. They vainly 
endeavoured to soar above the atmosphere, but an irresistible 
force impeded their flight into the purer spheres. There they 
waited until a new body was formed. This they entered with 
impatience, and animated it. Not having attained the higher 
purity which could unite them to the sun, they were com- 
pelled to wander in the forms of various birds, animals, and 
fishes, or, as they said, " creatures that peopled the air, earth, 
and seas." 

MiUions of higher souls occupied vast ice-plains in the moon. 
There they lost all perception but that of simple existence. 
They forgot the kind of Ufe in which they lived. On bridges, 
or more correctly " tubes," or tunnels caused by ecUpses, they 
returned to earth, where, revived by a particle of Ught from the 
Sun, they began a new Ufe career. 

The sun consisted of an assemblage of pure souls " floating 
in an ocean of bUss." This glorious orb contained the souls of 
good, brave, and wise people, who were friends and defenders 
of mankind. These souls, when thrice purified in the sun, 
ascended to a succession of still higher spheres. From there 
they could not again descend to those stars which occupied a 
less pure atmosphere. 

Souls sullied by earthly impurities were refined by repeated 
changes and probations until the last stain of evil was worn 
away, and they were ultimately ripened for immortal bliss in a 
higher sphere. 
This was a purely Druidical belief. 

The Druids divided existence into three circles : (i) The 
Circle of Space, which God alone could pervade ; (2) the Circle 
of Courses, pervaded by material creation or state of humanity ; 
(3) the Circle of Happiness, which would be ultimately obtained 
by mankind. 

In the Circle of Courses man, with other works of Nature, 
began in the Great Deep or lower state of existence. This 
contained a mixture of good and evil, of which the soul of 
man could make his choice, or balance his propensities. This 
condition was called the Point of Liberty. Thence the man's 
soul went through the Gate of MortaUty to the Circle of 


Happiness, where there would be neither want, adversity, 
sorrow, nor death. If he permitted evil affections and passions 
to govern him, he would sink down from the Circle of Happi- 
ness. In that case Death would return him to the Circle of 
Courses, where he would suffer punishment in proportion to 
his sins. Here the soul was to do penance in the form of a beast 
or reptile, or in several of them successively. From this degra- 
dation it again arose and reassumed human form. Repeated 
corrections and probations would ultimately subdue all evil 
propensities. The Point of Liberty would at length be attained, 
and the " Divine particle *' would be introduced by Death to 
infinite happiness. 

It was stated that the " Clych yr Abred," the mystery of the 
" Abred,'* or the " Circle of the Courses," was the comer-stone 
of British Druidism.* 

* Davies, *' Mythology," p. 220 ; Owen W. Richards, *' Cambro- 
British Biography,'* p. 32 ; Smith, *' ReHgipn of Ancient Britain," p. 37 ; 
CambfO'Briton, vol. i., p. 251 ; '' Voyage dans le Finisterre," 1794, 1796. 



OLD-TIME remedies associated with folk-lore are peculiar 
and curious. In some instances remedies that were for- 
merly laughed at as " old women's superstitions " are, by 
means of modern science and its advancement, turned to use 
again. I refer particularly to colours used for the cure, or at 
least the alleviation, of certain human maladies. 

Red is regarded in Wales as a colour of many virtues, and 
from the far past even until so late as twenty years ago red 
flannel was considered to be excellent for rheumatism. A 
piece of red flannel or any kind of woollen stuff worn around 
the throat, especially with a layer of thinly cut bacon placed 
between two folds of the fabric, was considered to be a sovereign 
remedy for all kinds of sore throat. 

In 1859 3. doctor of the old school ordered a patient suffering 
from scarlet fever to be dressed in red night and day clothing. 
Red curtains were suspended from the window-pole, and the 
old-fashioned four-posted bedstead was draped with red 

Smallpox patients were also enveloped in red, and red 
blinds or curtains were drawn across the windows. At the 
first approach of scarlet fever or smallpox, the person was 
subjected to red treatment. 

There was an old superstition that if scarlet fever or small- 
pox were epidemic, red flannel worn around the neck, or next 
to the skin on any part of the body, warded away the disease. 
Even in the present day the peasantry of Wales cling very 
closely to the old superstition about a bit of red flannel as a 
preventive against fever, smallpox, and rheumatism. 



At the same time, the people beUeved that if a person gazed 
very long at scarlet or bright red, he would be driven to kill 
somebody, especially his nearest and dearest relatives. Red 
placed before the eyes of a person beginning to be light-headed 
would send him mad, but in later stages of deUrium the colour 
would cure him. 

Purple and shades of " puce,'' as they called it, had a ten- 
dency to drive men mad, and I heard an old woman saying that 
if " you look too long on laylock [lilac], you'll get crazy." 

In South Glamorgan between fifty and eighty years ago blue 
was regarded as a '* flighty colour," and had a tendency to make 
women have a longing to be " show-girls and play-actors." It 
was also " very bad for the nerves to look too long on blue." 

Yellow was considered very bad for the " sterricks " (hys- 
teria), and country folk said that if you gazed too long upon a 
" yellow rag," you would become ** silly and moon-struck." 
The plague was often called the yellow sickness, or the yellow 
complaint. At the same time, a person suffering from jaundice 
was advised to wear a yellow ribbon or woollen rag around his 
throat. But in some parts of Wales it was asserted that yellow 
worn on any part of the body would induce or " conjure " the 

If a yellow-hammer could be caught and held before the face 
of a person afflicted by jaundice, a cure might be expected. A 
piece of amber or a topaz put in a drinking goblet or cup, and 
the latter filled with mead, was a cure for jaundice. The skin 
of a lizard or viper placed under the pillow served the same 

The cure of hydrophobia in mankind and animals appears to 
have exercised the minds of the Welsh very much. Many of 
the remedies are now forgotten, and before referring to the 
testimony of one who made up a hydrophobia decoction for 
man and beast under the direction of her father, mention may 
here be made of the antidotes well remembered. 

On the sea-coast of Wales, north, west, and south, a patient 
suffering from the bite of a mad dog was taken out to sea in a 
boat. Before starting, he was securely bound by the hands 
and feet, and when out at a distance from the shore two men 
plunged him in the water three times. Each time the man or 


woman, as the case might be, was asked if he or she had had 
enough. But just as he opened his mouth to reply, he was 
dipped again. This dipping was repeated nine times, with a 
pause between each three dips, to enable the patient to have 
an opportunity for ** breathing.*' The shock or temporary 
fright caused by repeated dips into the sea and the quantity of 
water swallowed worked the " cure,'* so the people said. 

Another remedy consisted in a visit to the wonderful stone 
at Mynyddmelyn.* A bit of this stone reduced to a fine 
powder and mixed with milk was given to the sufferer, and the 
cure " never failed.*' Friends of the person bitten made a 
pilgrimage to the stone for the purpose of obtaining a small 
portion of it, or else the patient was conveyed to the stone, 
where, with bound, hands and feet, he was forced to lick it. 
The stone of Mynyddislwyn, Monmouthshire, was also regarded 
as curative and almost sacred. 

Among other remedies well remembered was the buck's- 
horn plantain. This formerly grew in abundance among the 
sand tracts of The Leys in South Glamorgan and the sand- 
dunes of Newton, near Porthcawl. In those sandy and barren 
places the leaves of this plantain spread star-shaped upon the 
ground. They are narrow, long, notched, and divided so as 
to resemble a buck's-hom. The root is long and slender. The 
root and leaves were made into a decoction, sweetened with 
honey, and administered to the patient. 

Scarlet pimpernel was also used as a sovereign remedy, not 
only for the bites of mad dogs and other venomous animals, 
but for the stings of vipers, adders, and snakes. 

An old woman in the Vale of Glamorgan told me that this 
remedy was prepared in the following way : The herb was 
dried and reduced to a powder, just as the housewife prepares 
mint for winter use. The leaves and root were also made into 
an infusion. A teaspoonful of the latter, or about twenty 
grains of the former, were put into a cup, with fifteen dirops of 
spirit of hartshorn, and a dose was administered every six 
hours. The patient had to continue using this for fifteen 
days. Rags steeped in the decoction were applied to the 
wound, and whenever practicable, the underlinen or flannel 
♦ William Howell, *' Cambrian Superstitions/* pp. 23, 25. 


worn next to the body was soaked in the same liquid. White 
poppy and scarlet pimpernel were sometimes used at the same 
time, or in alternation. 

A North Welshman said the remedy often used in the 
Snowdon region was a kind of moss found on wild heaths, dry 
pastures, and in woodlands. He said it spreads on the ground, 
and is a leather-like substance. To the botanist this lichen is 
known as ash-coloured liverwort, or lichen caninus. This 
lichen was dried and reduced to a powder. When .used as a 
remedy for hydrophobia, two parts of the powder were mixed 
with one of pepper, which should be the black variety. This 
was commonly used in Wales. 

Milkwort was used for slight bites of dogs, cats, and veno- 
mous animals, or for the sting of a snake, viper, or any reptile. 

Elecampane was much used for the same purpose. A corre- 
spondent recently wrote to me thus : " There lived about 
sixty years ago an old woman in a cottage, one of a row that 
stood on the site now occupied by the present new Nolton 
St. Mary's Church, in Church Street, Bridgend (Glamorgan), 
who cultivated elecampane in her garden. She was noted for 
curing hydrophobia in cattle, and farmers in the surrounding 
district came to her for the remedy. She made a decoction of 
it mixed with milk and a quantity of fowls* feathers. The other 
ingredients were kept as a profound secret, which she took to 
the grave and never divulged. Elecampane was generally 
known and very plentiful in the Vale of Glamorgan a century 

Angelica, vervain, and rue were used with other remedies. 

The person to whom reference has already been made who 
prepared a hydrophobia decoction under the direction of her 
father gave me some interesting particulars, but would not 
name the herbs. From her description I gleaned there was 
something mysterious or even magical in the gathering and 
preparing of the herbs. Shaking her head gravely, she said 
that some of the things done in preparing the decoction would 
be laughed at by the present generation. Six or seven herbs 
were used, and they were brewed into a kind of beer. One 
kind of brew was for man and one for beast. This beer would 
* William Da vies (Gwilyin Glan Ogwy). 


keep for years. The afHicted person was to bathe in the sea, 
then walk home and take a dose of the mixture. It was to be 
taken when the moon was either new or full, or at both periods. 
This beer was in great request all through South Wales, and 
people even came from North Wales to obtain it. It was 
generally known and used in Wales so late as 1870. The 
maker of it says she could prepare it now, if necessary, but she 
will not divulge the names of the herbs. The receipt for making 
this beer is in her possession, and it has descended from father 
or mother to son or daughter for more than two hundred years. 
This beer would cure any scratch as well as bite of animal. 

At Disgwilfa,* about twelve miles from Carmarthen, a white 
stone, " the size of a giant's head,'* was found. It was scraped 
by a knife, and the powder swallowed for hydrophobia. For 
curiosity a healthy man took some of this powder, and ex- 
perienced a sensation as if the blood boiled in his veins. People 
said the stone had fallen from the sky. 

Dog's madness was attributed to a worm seated under the 
tongue, and this could be cut out if seen to in time. The same 
worm caused distemper in cats, and could be cut away. An 
ailment of horses was called the " blow- worm," and this 
affected sheep and other animals, in all cases causing a kind of 
frenzy or temporary madness. An old story used to be told 
that a Welshman, having caught the devil, asked him what 
was a cure for this worm. The devil said when all the cattle 
or any other animals were dead but one, that one must be 
carried around the field or pen three times, and then no more 
would die but the last one ! [C. D.] 

Syrup of elderberries with water of wormwood was a 
remedy for colic, and so also were boiled leeks. A poultice 
of blueberries was supposed to be a cure for sore throat. The 
mouth affection known as the thrush in infants was cured 
by allowing the child to suck the raw " mouse bit " of beef. 
Violets and their leaves stewed and eaten as a preserve with 
honey or sugar was regarded as good for cancer. Dandelion- 
leaves and flowers, sometimes with the addition of the roots, 
was considered good for liver affections. Rue-tea was the 
remedy for fits. Rosemary tea or beer, sweetened with honey, 

* William Howell, " Cambrian Superstitions/' p. 102. 


cured hoarseness, loss of voice, and coughs. Sage tea or beer 
served the same purpose. The dew shaken from camomile- 
flowers was used as a curefor consumption. 

May-dew was collected and used as a lotion for improving 
the complexion. For the same purpose elder-flowers, alone 
or with parsley, were boiled and strained, and the water used 
as a face-lotion. The old people said that the dew collected 
from pure white June roses would bring beauty to a new-bom 
girl, if sprinkled on her face every morning before sunrise. 

Sty on the eyelid was cured, they said, by means of a new 
bride's or grandmother's wedding-ring rubbed across it nine 
times. This was done in turns of three, each divided by a 
pause. To look at a person with a sty on the eyelid was to 
catch it yourself. 

It was generally believed that shingles could be cured by the 
application of cat's blood to the affected part. The blood 
could be obtained from the ear or tail of the animal. Other 
remedies were lard or the sUme of a snail rubbed into the 
shingles. A charmed girdle was sometimes worn around the 
waist. If the shingles gradually crept around a person's 
waist, and at last actually surrounded it, forming a complete 
girdle, it was regarded as a fatal sign, and the sufferer must die. 

To cure a tongue-tied child, people took two loaves that had 
stuck together in the baking, and broke them loose over the 
sufferer's head. 

For cramp, a ring made from the handle of a decayed cofiin 
was to be worn on the finger all night. Armlets and ankle- 
rings of the same metal were worn for cramp in the arms or 

For toothache people were told to take a sharp twig of willow 
and therewith pick their decayed teeth until they bled. After 
that the twig was to be thrown into a running stream. This 
was a perfect cure. It was customary to peel the bark of the 
elder-tree upward, and make a decoction with it, which was 
administered three times a day for toothache. The same 
remedy was used for ague and all shivering fits. 

For feverish chills the patient was recommended to walk 
over the boundaries of nine fields in one day, and he would be 
rid of it. It was also thought that for the same ailment the 


patient should go in silence, and without crossing water, to a 
hollow willow-tree. He must breathe through it three times, 
and go home without looking round or speaking. This last 
remedy was recommended for ague.* 

If a person ate the first three sloe-blossoms he saw, he would 
not have heartburn all through the year. A hare's foot kept 
in his pocket was equally effectual. He who would be free 
from all pains and aches through the year must be careful 
not to step barefooted on the floor on Easter Day. 

For erysipelas, burns, and inflammations of the eyes, the 
remedy was to strike a fire by means of stone or iron in " front 
of the person *' afflicted ; or the sufferer was recommended to 
stand before a forge fire and allow the sparks to fall freely upon 
him ! To stir or blow a fire before the patient, so that the 
glow overspread his face, was a remedy for the same ailment. 

The marl of certain wells and springs at Llancarfan, South 
Glamorgan, was made into a paste and applied to the parts 
affected with erysipelas. Water running through cliffs near 
St. Donates Castle, Glamorgan, was a well-known remedy for 
erysipelas in the end of the seventeenth and early part of the 
eighteenth centuries. 

An old custom with regard to consumption died out in the 
middle of the nineteenth century. Old women who were 
skilful in making herb-tea, ointments, and decoctions of all 
kinds, professed to tell for certain when a person was con- 
sumptive. This was by measuring the body. They took a 
string and measured the patient from head to feet, then from 
tip to tip of the outspread arms. If the person's length was less 
than his breadth, he was consumptive ; if the width from 
shoulder to shoulder was narrower than from the throat to the 
waist, there was little hope of cure. The proper measure was 
made of yarn. Snail-broth was an old-time remedy for con- 
sumption, and the malady would be alleviated, if not cured, 
if the patient stood every morning for one hour after sunset in 
a stable among horses. 

Gout was often attributed to the malicious work of witches. 
There were several kinds of this complaint, but all could be 
cured by flint-broth, snail-soup, or hmestone-tea ! Each of 
these remedies was boiled for half an hour, strained, and drurfk 


by the sufferer, who was invariably told he must have faith in 
them ! 

An old Welshman told me that his grandfather said the 
people in his youth mentioned several different kinds of gout. 
They were designated as flying, running, staying, trembling, 
morning, evening, growing, wasting, swelling, splitting, blow- 
ing, riding, deaf, dumb, and blind gout. The flying gout 
shifted from one part of the body to another. The running 
gout kept to one part, and ran up and down that particular 
place. The staying gout affected one part, and continually 
remained there. The trembling gout gave quiverings in various 
parts. The wasting form of this malady caused great emacia- 
tion. The splitting variety caused the finger and toe nails to 
break. The blowing gout caused bladders and scales to form 
and break on the fingers and feet. The riding gout was worse 
at night, and caused nightmares. The deaf, dumb, and blind 
gout affected the hearing, speech, and eyesight. For the 
flying gout the patient was completely swathed in clean hay 
or flax, and afterwards wrapped in a sheepskin. A sweating 
medicine was administered. 

For rheumatism people formerly kept a piece of raw potato 
or a small lump of sulphur in their pockets. The tooth of a 
weasel was recommended for the same purpose. The various 
forms of rheumatism were treated in the same way as gout, 
and similar charms were used for both maladies. 

Apoplexy was always called the " stroke of God " or the 
" touch of God's hand." The old people said the first stroke 
would " bring, the second would try, the third was the touch 
to make you die "! A hatchet laid on the threshold sometimes 
prevented the third stroke. 

Epilepsy or falling sickness was pronounced incurable, and 
patients were encouraged to " bide their time in peace." 
Charms were used to relieve the fits. Epileptics were sup- 
posed to have double vision, and sometimes everything before 
them was trebled. If children ate chervil, they would become 
epileptic, and see everything double or blurred. 

In some parts of South Wales dropsy was referred to as a 
moon-sickness. It was a water-calf or moon-calf, and always 
destroyed people's hearts. 


Ringworm was the work of a witch, and was cured by means 
of seaweed poultices and powdered cuttlefish sprinkled on the 
sore place. This, with stone, gravel, affections of the spleen, 
and gripes, were singled out for exorcism of a special kind. 
The same method was followed in cases of tumour, fistula, 
whitlow, cancer, " king's evil," or scrofula, and boils of all 

The old people used to say that if you desired to die you 
should eat cabbages in August. A dry, hoarse cough was for- 
merly called the " churchyard cough," and the " trumpet of 
death." A cold head and warm feet insure long life. If you 
feed a cold, you will have to starve a fever. In some places 
the people say, " Feed a cold, and starve a fever." Light 
dinner, little supper. Sound sleep, long life. Plenty bread, 
but little beer. Salmon and sermon in Lent. Tongue-tied 
children should eat a beggar's bread. An egg, and to bed. 
After dinner rest awhile ; after supper walk a mile. In many 
parts of Wales the people say : 

** Early to bed and early to rise 
Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.*' 

If a draught comes through the keyhole, make your will at 

The wick of a candle that had been burning in a dying 
man's room was supposed to be a certain cure for goitre. It 
was rubbed on the affected part. 

A piece of oak, or the blood of birds or foxes, passed lightly 
over the body in perfect silence before sunrise on St. John's 
Day would heal open sores and wounds of all descriptions. 

A stone from a virgin's grave was formerly tied to any person 
who had been bitten by an adder. 

Mouse-pie was to be eaten by children who stammered, and 
by people who suffered from bladder affections. 

In some parts of Wales snails are facetiously called " wall- 
fish," and one of these rubbed on any inflamed part of the 
body effected a cure. 

Brimstone and treacle, and salts and senna, are still 
the common remedies used in Wales for purifying the blood 
in spring. 


Creeping through gaps in trees, the earth, or stone was a 
remedy for many complaints in the early part of the nineteenth 
century. The young pollard ash-trees and oaks were cleft 
asunder and held open by wedges, so that any patient, from the 
infant to the adult, could be pushed or drawn through the 
aperture. A naturally hollow tree was still more valuable. 
When the operation was over the part of the body affected 
was rubbed, stroked, and bound. This was an invaluable 
remedy for rupture. 

For animals a hole was bored in the oak or ash, and a living 
field-mouse was placed in the hollow. It was then customary 
to plug the hole, and to rub the affected part of the animal 
with the leaves of the tree, of which a poultice was made for 
application to the sore. 

Children troubled with rickets were put to crawl or creep 
under blackberry brambles three times a week, and the same 
remedy was used for infants slow to walk. Sometimes a 
natural archway was made of raspberry-canes or blackberry 
brambles, so that both ends were in the earth, and the child 
was taught to crawl through it three Fridays in succession. 

Children sufEering from whooping-cough were formerly 
drawn three times through a hawthorn hedge. 

A trout's head put into a child's mouth answered the same 
purpose, and in some parts a dead spider or the tooth of a 
weasel, sewn up in a tiny silk bag, was considered effectual. 
It had to be suspended around the sufferer's neck. 

One of the most popular remedies was to take the sufferers 
daily to the edge of the tide at low-water mark, and allow 
them to walk up and down before the flowing sea. 

To bury in the earth was another curious method of curing 
any physical affection. A piece of fat bacon enclosed in a few 
ash-leaves, and secretly buried in the earth, was supposed to 
cure warts. The same remedy relieved toothache and sore 
throat. For fever, people stole three small pieces of bread from 
a neighbour's house. Two empty walnut or hazel-nut shells 
were then filled with crumbs moistened by saliva. The shells 
were closed and tied with some yarn. They were then secretly 
buried in earth close to a churchyard wall. It was customary 
to repeat an old rhyme while doing this, the only line remem- 


bered now being, " Fever, fever, go to the wall." Another 
remedy for the fever was to catch a moth, kill it, roll it in bacon, 
and bury it in the earth. For gout take a nail from a dead 
man's boot, and bury it a foot deep in earth under an ash or oak. 
To bury an old tooth in the churchyard will relieve the owner 
of toothache. Headache would be cured if a small piece of fat 
bacon were buried in earth under lavender or in an ant-hill. 

Stroking and rubbing were remedies for many ailments. 
The patient's body was commonly stroked with the hand or 
sleeve, or the back of a knife. Very often a thread was tied 
around the affected part, or the medicine or healing herbs were 
tied on by it. In the first half of the nineteenth century 
there were men and women known as marvellous rubbers, 
whose profession it was to rub patients. Their efforts bore 
similar results to those obtained by the massage of the present 
day. These people are still called ** rubbers." 

The rubber was, and is still, to be found in many remote 
parts of Wales, where also people called " bone-setters " live. 
It is strange to hear of people still going to the rubber and the 
bone-setter, in whom they have great faith, when surgeons and 
hospitals are available near at hand. The herbaUst is another 
with potent influence among the peasantry and the colliery 
population of North and South Wales. 

" Y frech wen," or the smallpox, was always treated in the 
following way in Wales : The patient known to be suffering from 
this complaint was placed in bed and kept as warm as possible, 
in order that he should have a " good healthy crop." To 
induce as much heat as possible, he was enveloped in blankets, 
and had to drink gruel with strong rum in it, or beer made as 
hot as possible, with sugar and ginger in it, or egg-flip. The 
latter was made with beer, beaten eggs, sugar, and a small 
quantity of gin. These were heated, and served smoking 
hot. The patient drank until he perspired freely, and was 
afterwards kept comfortably warm during the course of the 
complaint. When the modern system of reducing the tem- 
perature was introduced, the old people were shocked, and 
declared that the smallpox would " turn in " and be fatal. 
A Welsh doctor of the old school so late as 1870 treated the 
smallpox in the old-fashioned way, with the result that his 


'■■ ' ifilp; 


patients had not a mark ; while those of a neighbouring surgeon, 
who favoured the new treatment, had several deaths among those 
under his care. Whereupon the old doctor boasted his triumph ! 

In the days of old, charms were used for the cure of small- 
pox, and also for measles. Patients of both maladies were 
recommended to wear yellow or red night-clothing while ill, 
and during the early stages of convalescence. 

Personifying disease appears to have been general in Wales 
in the far past, and down through later centuries it can be 
vaguely traced. 

The sixth-century plague was described as a woman so hideous 
to behold that to look upon her would be death. When a 
pestilence known as the '* Fad Felin " raged in the district 
between Duffryn Clwyd and Conway, Maelgwyn shut himself 
up in Llan Rhos Church, to avoid seeing the creature ; but, 
incautiously looking through the window, she crossed his 
sight, and he died. In this way the prophecy came true 
which was uttered by Taliesin :* "A strange creature will 
come from the marsh at Rhianedd to punish the crimes of 
Maelgwyn Gwynedd. Its hair, its teeth, and its eyes are 
yellow, and this wUl destroy Maelgwyn Gwynedd.*' 

It was customary, so late as the eighteenth and early part 
of the nineteenth centuries, to say, when a sultry mist and a 
blight passed over the country, that there soon would be 
" sickness and suffering in the parish." More especially was 
this said when the mist took the shape of a grey-blue cloud or 
fog that moved rapidly. It was called the " fever blight," 
and people said it was always seen before epidemics of various 
kinds of fever. In the days when smallpox (frech wen) was 
a dreaded disease, people said an epidemic of it was always 
preceded by a sultry, yellow, and poisonous mist, that had a 
depressing effect. A heavy, duU, and dark-looking mist, 
moving slowly along when all sounds were deadened and the 
foliage was seared thereby, was " a sign before cholera." 

Certain flying moths that become very troublesome in some 
years were called " fever moths," and were supposed to carry 
disease in their wings. When these moths infested a house, 
people said somebody would die of fever therein. 
♦ Welsh poet, fifth century. 


Some kinds of butterflies were called " fever flies," and it 
was asserted that they carried germs of fever under their wings. 
A number of these seen flying together were carefully watched, 
and when they entered a house, it was a foretoken of malignant 
fever and death. 

Bluebottle flies were called " fever flies " or " death flies," 
and were supposed to bring fever or death to the person upon 
whose body they aUghted. When a persistent bluebottle could 
not be got rid of from a bedroom, people said the occupant of 
the apartment would either have the fever or die within the 

There was a " fever bird " resembling an owl, but without 
legs, or else with very short ones, and large, red-looking eyes. 
When this strange bird looked in at a window, or perched 
itself on a window-sill, somebody in that house would die of 
fever or " burning illness " within a year and a day. It was 
a fever-bringer. 

Animal disorders were foretokened. 

In some parts of Wales people used to say that when a strange 
ring-spotted calf mysteriously appeared among the herds, and 
cried mournfully, the kine and oxen would be stricken with 
disease. It killed by its cry, and was the bringer of disease 
of various kinds. 

When a mottled sheep, unidentified by the farmer, was seen 
and heard bleating near the flocks, he called it the bringer of 
death to the fold. A stray horse of two colours neighing near 
the stable foretokened or brought disease or death to the 

In the poultry-yard a stray and strange chanticleer brought 
sickness or death to the fowls or scarcity at sitting-time. This 
omen was fatal aUke to turkeys, geese, ducks, and fowls. 

21 — 2 



IN the days of old, when the harvest sheaves had been borne 
away, the *' leasers,'* as gleaners are commonly called in 
Wales, were allowed into the cornfields to gather stray 
ears of wheat that remained in the stubble. Generous 
farmers took care that the " leasing " should yield a plentiful 
supply for the women and children of the parish, so that all 
might have enough bread and to spare. 

Wales takes the place of the kindly farmer. There are ample 
supplies for those who care to search, and this book contains 
only a handful of wheat-ears from a very small " leasing.*' 

People say it is fortunate to find a horseshoe, or part of one, 
or a limestone pebble with a hole through it, on the sea-beach or 
elsewhere. It is lucky to find three whole grains in a baked 
loaf. If you find a needle on the floor with the head towards 
you, pleasure will come unasked. Beg some small silver coins, 
get them made into a finger-ring, and so long as you wear it 
you will be fortunate. If you cut a loaf quite evenly, you will 
be successful and rich. To find a silver sixpence with a hole 
in it is lucky. When you first wear a new dress, put a coin in 
the pocket for prosperity. When crickets sing under the 
hearth, it is regarded as a token of pleasure and plenty. If 
a stocking or any other article of wearing apparel is worn with 
the wrong side out all day without your knowing it, you will 
have a present of money. Stockings hung crossways at the 
foot of the bed, with a pin stuck in them, will procure luck 
and prevent nightmare troubling you. Always keep a crooked 
sixpence in your pocket for luck. If you see a wandering fox 
in the morning, you will have a good day. A flight of birds to 



the right of you is a good omen. The four-leaved clover brings 
luck and love. A candle that bums roses, or red wick-heads, 
indicates prosperity and a letter. If a woman on New Year's 
Morning sees a man first, she will have prosperity all through the 
ensuing year. It is fortunate for a dark-haired person to be the 
first to cross your threshold on New Year's Day. It is lucky 
to find a crow's feather stuck in the ground before your feet. 

It is in the Principality, as well as in England, considered 
good to find a horseshoe, and when found it is invariably 
nailed to the door of the house or the bam. A rusty horse- 
shoe is always kept for luck. 

Hazel-nuts are regarded as emblems of good fortune. In 
some old farm-houses in South Wales hazel-nuts are always 
kept in the house until they are brown with age. When quite 
rotten, they are burnt in the fire, to insure prosperity. 

Ringing in the right ear is lucky. 

If the right eye quivers or twitches, you may take it for a 
good omen. 

If the left eye quivers or itches, you will have cause for laughter. 

Itching of the soles of your feet is a token that you will have 
good news, or an invitation to a dance. If your feet itch, you 
will soon tread on strange ground. 

If you throw an old shoe after a bride, she will have good 

Throw a shoe over your head, and whichever way the toe 
points will be the most fortunate direction for you to take. 

When the hand itches, the Welsh say, " Rub it against wood, 
it will come to good." When people are saying how success- 
ful, fortunate, or lucky they have been, they immediately 
touch wood. These actions are probably descended from a 
reverential source. " Touch the wood of the cross, and re- 
member, and be humble," was an old saying ; therefore in 
Wales they touch or rub wood when the hands itch. If your 
right hand itches, you will receive money ; if your left itches, 
you will spend it. 

Swallows' nests and crickets bring blessings to the house. 
If you cry before breakfast, you will laugh before supper, 
and vice versa. There was an old saying that if you slept with 
your feet near the window, you woidd have consumption, but 


if with your head to the window, you would never have that 
complaint. They say " Three chances for a Welshman," and 
if he is successful the third time, he will be very fortunate after- 
wards. If on the morning of Christmas Day, May Day, or 
Twelfth Day the embers of the previous night are still glowing, 
you will have a year of great prosperity and success. You will 
easily win favours if you dig up a root of cihquefoil on the eve 
of May and wear it in your coat. It is very fortunate if swallows 
build under your eaves. To find money in unexpected places 
is fortunate, and you will remain successful so long as you 
conceal it, and do not let anybody know you have found it. 

To sneeze while you are putting on your shoes is a good 

There is an old story in Wales that if a man sneezes in the 
morning, he should lie down again for three hours, or his wife 
will be master for the ensuing week. 

Sneezing between noon and midnight was considered a good 
omen, but it was very unlucky between midnight and noon. 
If a person sneezed while getting up in the morning, he would 
soon go back to bed with pain. 

If you sneeze thrice in succession, they say you will be kissed, 
cursed, or shake hands with a fool. 

People in Wales formerly would instantly use every en- 
deavour to suppress sneezing, for there was an old story 
prevalent in some counties that a man was once killed by 
a single sneeze. 

When people sneeze, it is customary to utter the exclama- 
tion, " Bendigedig !" which means blessed. 

They say that if you make any remark or express any desire, 
and sneeze immediately, it will be confirmed and come true. 

The Welsh say if you sneeze on Christmas night, your 
cattle will die. To sneeze to the right is lucky, to the left un- 
fortunate ; right in front of you, good news is coming. 

He who sneezes when a narrative is being told proves its 
truth. In some parts they say that if you sneeze once you will 
have a kiss, twice a wish, thrice a letter, four times a dis- 

Foretokens of sorrow appear to be more numerous than those 
of joy. 


It is bad to meet an old woman early in the morning, or to 
pass between two old women in the forenoon. 

If a man sees a woman first on Christmas morning, he will 
have sorrow. 

It is very unfortunate if, when you first go out in the morn- 
ing, you meet a clergyman or a minister of any denomination. 

If when going to market you meet a person carrying water, 
you will be unlucky in buying and selling that day. 

To meet a beggar, a blind man, a lame man, or a person with 
a squint the first thing in the morning was unfortunate. 

A crowing hen is prophetic of evil. 

*' A whistling woman and a crowing hen 
Are only fit for the devil and his den." 

If a hare crosses your path in the morning, expect misfortune. 

On setting out early in the morning you will have misfortune 
if swine or weasels cross your path. 

To open an umbrella in the house is unlucky. If a person 
lets one fall and picks it up himself, he may expect a dis- 
appointment. He should ask somebody else to pick it up 
for him. 

If you gather pansies, you will have a disappointment. 

Heather — the emblem of good luck in Scotland — is regarded 
in Wales as a token of misfortune or death if brought into 
the house. 

Old women, known as " crones,'* and clergymen, formerly 
called " parsons," appeared in the folk-lore of Wales as subjects 
for scorn. In the eighteenth century they said if " an old crone 
meets you in the morning, you will have affairs going wrong 
all day.'* If a man chances to walk between " two old crones," 
he has no luck that day. Never forget to greet an old crone in 
the morning, or you will be unfortunate. Old and very aged 
women, known as " crones," were much despised because 
people said they brought misfortune. Generally they were 
dirty, untidy gossips. 

With reference to the clergyman, he was supposed to be 
meddlesome, always prying into people's affairs, and, in the 
far past, neglect of his duties caused him to come under de- 
rision. It was an old saying that if a person met the parson 


the first thing in the morning, something bad would happen 
during the day. If the parson walked out early, bad weather 
was coming. When people talking became suddenly silent, they 
said, " The parson is passing ; no luck to-day." The hunts- 
men in the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth centuries 
thought it so unlucky to meet a parson that they turned home 
again with the hounds. If the parson was in the hunt, " well 
and good," but it was " bad to meet him." He that wore the 
parson's left-ofi shoes or clothes would be unlucky. [CD., J. R. ] 
It is considered unlucky to keep peacock's feathers in the house. 
If you break the looking-glass, there will be misfortune for 
seven years. To break anything made of glass is a token of 
death or misfortune. If one piece of crockery is broken, three 
will go. It was bad to meet anybody on the stairs. To go 
out of the house early in the morning having forgotten any- 
thing, and return for it, is an omen of evil. It is very unfortu- 
nate to find money on the highroad. Never put on any 
garment trimmed with crape, unless you are in mourning, for 
it foretokens sorrow. So, also, if a spinster puts on widow's 
weeds, she will never marry; and if a married woman "tries 
on the weeds," she will soon be a widow. 

Two blackbirds sitting together on a window-sill or door- 
step indicate death to one of the inmates of the house. Creak- 
ing rafters and squeaking tables foretoken disaster or death. 

If a fire crackles or salt is spilt, you may expect quarrels. If 

a goose lays one soft and one hard egg, or two eggs in a day, 
it means misforttme to the owner. A deserted rookery means 
misforttme and probably death in the mansion. A white cock 

brings bad luck. A spider running towards you in the morning 

is a token of misfortune. If a candle spits, or a log from the 

fire falls to the hearth, it is a bad sign. 
When several locomotives let off steam at the same time, 

the railway men say it is a token of rain. 

If your left ear rings or looks red, it is a token that somebody 

is slandering you or misfortune is approaching. If your right 

ear rings or looks red, somebody is praising you. 

If your fingers become yellow or dead-white — in other words, 

benumbed — without a cause, there wUl soon be a death in your 




If in going out your skirt catches in the doorway, it is a token 
of misadventure or misfortune. If you stumble on the 
threshold, you are liable to have a fall during the day. If 
you turn back after crossing the threshold the first time in 
the morning, you may expect worries all day 

You should never tread upon the sweepings on the floor. 
Strangers should always sit down the moment they enter the 
room, or the children will not rest. If men watch women 
putting new feathers into the tick, they will be uneasy all 
night. To get out of bed the wrong side is to have things 
go contrary all day. At market, do not let the first customer 
go ; sell under value rather than lose him. If the crows make 
much noise by the house, you will have unexpected guests. 
If you spill salt, do not scrape it up, or you will be unlucky. 
If you help anybody with salt, you will help him with sorrow. 
Those who tread their heels inwards will be rich ; if outwards, 
they will be poor. If the new moon peeps into your purse, you 
will be short of money all through the month. It is customary 
for people in the markets in Wales either to spit on the 
first money they take in the morning, or to throw the coin on 
the ground and tread on it. If this is not done, they believe 
they will be unfortunate all day. It is unlucky to find money 
in the morning, unless it is on a board. In settling a bargain, 
it is customary to hand back a shilling to the seller. If this 
is not done, the transaction will prove unsatisfactory. If the 
three-legged stool falls and lies upside down, you will be worried 
that day. It is unfortunate to permit strangers into the farm- 
yard at milking-time. 

English names were regarded as very unlucky for fishermen 
in Wales. The names Davis, Davies, Thomas, and John were 
unlucky for sailors and fishermen. Jones, Yorath, Howe, 
Lloyd, and Leyshon were fortunate. In and around Cardigan 
town it was considered unlucky for a person named Thomas 
to be the first to enter the house on New Year's Day. At 
Llanybyther, on the same day, John and Jenkin foretokened 
misfortune, while David and Evan were fortunate. In some 
parts of South Wales, if a man named David with red hair 
came first on that day, it was unlucky ; but if a person named 
Jones with dark hair came, all would be right. In South 


Cardiganshire, if a person named Thomas with red hair came, 
he brought misfortune. 

In. former times, if anybody called the Llantrisant people 
" The Black Army," they would be ready to fight. This arose 
from the fact that a great number of Llantrisant people and 
o'thers in the district went out to fight with the Black Prince. 
Instead of being honoured by the Welsh, they were bitterly 
reproached for joining the " Sassenach " (the English). 

People living in Pentyrch, near Llantrisant, were called 
" the peacemakers of Pentyrch." In the days of old, when 
feuds were many and fighting was common for the slightest 
pretext, the men of Pentyrch were celebrated for their efforts 
in " coming between " opponents and settling differences. 

The " Boys of Llantwit " had the reputation of being 
notorious fighters. A story used to be told that in the far past 
an inhabitant of their town was slain in Brecon. To have 
what was known in those days as the " revengement of blood," 
the men of Llantwit went to Brecon, and wrought so much 
havoc with their fists alone, that those who shielded the mur- 
derer were " fayne," to let them go, fearing dire calamity. 

The " Men of Dinas Mawddy " in the North were renowned 
for their strength and brigandage. They were bandits, and 
their name struck terror in the hearts of the people. But in 
times of emergency they were powerful and patriotic. 

Among other curious nicknames in Wales were the *' Whelps " 
of Carmarthen ; the *' Pigs " of Pembrokeshire ; " Sneering " 
Llanarth ; " Long " Llanrwst ; the " Mules " of Flint ; the 
" Snakes " of Aberdare ; the " One-A-wantings " and the 
" Vipers " of Llantwit ; the " Thieves of Merioneth " ; the 
" Pigs of Mon " ; and the " Calves of Lleyn." 

An old Welsh couplet describes a Queen journeying through 
North Wales, and receiving gifts at certain places. Anglesea 
gave her a beautiful pig ; Lleyn presented a calf ; and Meri- 
oneth people stole both from the Queen. 

The Anglesea people were called " the Pigs of Mon," 
the Welsh name for that island. The inhabitants of Cow- 
bridge, in the Vale of Glamorgan, were described as " Call 
Again To-morrow." As all know, Welshmen are called " Taffy " 
— a corruption of Dafydd, or David. 


The origin of " The Cuckoos of Risca " is attributed to the 
following cause, the story of which was transcribed from an 
old eighteenth-century house-book : " On a time the men of 
Risca were wishful to have perpetual good luck and fine weather 
all the year round. As these could not be expected without the 
aid of the cuckoo, the men decided upon a safe and sure plan. 
In the midst of the town they built a high hedge, quite round 
in shape, and green with leaf. Then they got a cuckoo, and 
put her into it, saying : ' Dear bird of good omen, sing here 
always, and you shaU lack neither meat nor drink nor comfort, 
all through the year, and for years to come.' When the cuckoo 
perceived the high hedge shutting her in, she quickly flew out, 
crying, ' Cuckoo, cuckoo !' Thereupon the people said, ' A 
vengeance upon her '/ The wise men who had encompassed 
the bird shook their heads, and cried out : ' Alas ! A-lack-a- 
day ! If we had built the hedge higher, she would have 
stayed.' " 

Llangynwyd, near Bridgend, Glamorgan, was formerly de- 
risively known as " The Old Parish." This title is said to have 
originated i^ the following way : Centuries ago a young man of 
that parish died. It appears that a new apprentice of the vil- 
lage carpenter was very boastful of his scholarship. His 
master had always used Roman numerals. The youth, eager 
to give evidence of his talent, searched the alphabet and 
numbers generally used for a pauper's coffin. He had some 
difficulty in satisfying his requirements. Presently he found 
the correct initials, but not the number twenty-eight, repre- 
senting the man's age. Equal, as he thought, to the occasion, 
the apprentice promptly nailed four sevens on the coffin, and 
rendered the age 7777 ! The inscription was not noticed 
until the coffin had been lowered into the grave ; then, the 
clergyman's attention was arrested by the four sevens. He 
then asked the carpenter where the deceased was born, and 
the answer was, " In this parish, sir." " And where has he 
been keeping himself all these ages ?" added the clergyman. 
" In this parish, sir," was the reply. " It is indeed a remark- 
ably old parish," concluded the clergyman. 

On the shore near Conway a mermaid was stranded during 
a storm. She begged the fishermen to put her back in the sea. 


but they refused. Then she entreated them to put at least 
her tail in the water ; still they refused, and the poor mermaid 
died of exhaustion. Just before her death she uttered a curse 
against the people of Conway, and said they would always be 
poor. The old story goes that ever since the mermaid's death 
Conway has been under the curse ; and if a stranger brings a 
sovereign to the town, the inhabitants have to send across the 
water to Llansantfraid for change.* 

Sir Gawaine's rock and fountain in Pembrokeshire were 
protected by supernatural power. In the dark and deep hollow 
of the tall and beetling cliffs on this part of the coast there is 
a vertical cleft, where the hero of Arthurian romance was hidden 
from his enemies by enchantment. It is said that the rock 
opened to let him in, then closed upon him ; and when the 
foes were gone it opened again, and still remains open, with 
the impression of Gawaine's body visible. The name Gawaine 
was corrupted to Gofen, thefn to Gowan, by which it is now 
known. The cleft in the rock grows larger for a tall man, and 
decreases in size for a small person ; and if anybody wishes in 
this hollow before turning round to come out, his desire will 
be gratified. Then, again, the steps leading to the tiny chapel 
of St. Gowan never can be counted by a mere mortal ; but 
whatever hopes may be in a person's mind when going up and 
down these steps, if they are breathed lightly in the wind, they 
will be fulfilled. Below the steps are magic stones, which 
ring like bells when touched. In a little arch over the roof 
of the church St. Gowan's bell hung for many centuries, 
and often sounded without the touch of human hand. It is 
said that sometimes the mysterious soimd of a bell is heard 
ascending from the lonely and romantic ravine, and it is always 
regarded as an omen of death in the neighbourhood, or disaster 
at sea. The Himtsman's Leap, close by, indicates the spot 
where they say a reckless man who had sold his soul to the 
devil was told by the latter that the only way to save it was 
to ride across the chasm. It is said the devil did not think this 
possible, but the rider persuaded St. Gowan to bless the horse, 
and the feat was accomplished in one marvellous leap. 
Bosheston Mere, or Meer, in th,e same neighbourhood, was 
* Rhys, "Celtic Folk-lore," pp. 30, 199. 



frequented by apparitions and mysterious wailings, moans, and 
cries. A scrap of folk-song is attached to this spot. It runs thus : 

** There is nothing to hope and nothing to fear 
When the wind sounds low on Bosheston Meer ; 
There is much to fear and little to hope 
When unseen hands pull St. Gowan's rope ; 
And the magic stones, as the wise know well. 
Promise sorrow and death Uke St. Gowan's bell.** 

On the coast of Glamorgan, in the town of Lllntwit Major, 
the omen bell of St. Illtutus used to be heard before a death 
in the parish. Sometimes, it is said, the soimd would be heard 
over the house of the person who was to die, or whose relative 
would die within a few months. Like St. Gawaine, St. Illtyd 
was a knight of King Arthur's Court, but afterwards became 
preceptor of the fifth-century college bearing his name at 
Llanilltyd Fawr, now known as Llantwit Major. 

St. Teilo, at one time Bishop of Llandaff, took a journey to 
Jerusalem, and on his return brought a wonderful bell. Un- 
touched by man, it struck the hours regularly. People were 
in awe of it, and when it struck m5^teriously at midnight they 
said some bad deed had been done during the day. It detected 
crimes, and when the suspected man or woman was brought 
before it, if he or she were innocent, the tone of the beU was 
gentle ; when the genuine offender appeared, the tones were 
harsh and severe, alnlost to abruptness. It also worked won- 
derful cures. In the course of time it was polluted by profane 
hands, and its miraculous virtue was lost. In the eighteenth 
century people said the bell was heard tolling before the death 
of anybody in the parishes of Llandilo and Llandaff. 

A very old folk-story is connected with a farm, still called the 
Wolf House, Liswomey, near Cowbridge, Glamorgan. The 
story dates back to the time when wolves were plentiful, and 
probably long before measures were taken for the extirpation 
of those animals in South Wales. The ground now known as 
the Pinklands was covered with dense woodlands, part of those 
stretching around PenUyne Castle. On the outskirts of Lis- 
worney village there was a farmstead. The farm-wife had 
several children. One day, while her husband was away, the 
wife went into the garden, but before going she closed the 
door, for her baby was in the cradle. When she returned, to 


her horror, the cradle was empty. Instantly she suspected a 
wolf of having been there. She at once rushed to the Pink- 
lands, and there, in a clearing of the woods, she found her 
babe, asleep and uninjured. In an instant she snatched up 
her babe and ran breathlessly home. Scarcely had she reached 
the house when a wolf was at her heels, and she had only time 
to bolt and bar the door before the animal was howling fero- 
ciously around the house. This memorial of a mother's bravery 
at the present day retains the name of the Wolf House. [The 
David Jones MSS.] 

Penlljme, near Cowbridge, in the Vale of Glamorgan, had a 
miraculous cow owned by a very benevolent lady, who be- 
stowed the milk of the animal on the poor only. The yield of 
milk was enormous, and at whatever time of the day she was 
milked the supply never failed. This animal lived to be very 
venerable and was regarded as almost sacred. From this 
story arose the proverb " It's like the Penllyne cow," when 
supplies appeared to be inexhaustible, or when people were 
unusually generous in the district. 

The site of the place called Castell Teirtud is in Breconshire, 
near Builth. It is mentioned in the "Liber Landavensis." 
Connected with this spot there are two stories.* One is that a 
giant named Teirtu lived there, and he was the maker of a 
wonderful harp. In the Welsh nursery-tale a dwarf named 
Dewryn Fychan desired to possess this harp. He visited the 
Castle in the night, and when Teirtu was fast alseep, stole the 
harp. All went well for a time, but when the dwarf was out- 
side the giant's premises, the harp began to play without the 
touch of any visible hand. The music was very harmonious, 
and it immediately awakened the giant, who went in pursuit 
of the dwarf and recovered the harp. 

The other was to the effect that near Castell Teirtud the 
form of a ** big man " was sometimes seen wandering about 
with a triple harp in his hand, and in the eighteenth century 
the country-folk said that where the fortress once stood strange 
sounds were to be heard, as if coming up from the ground. 
When these sounds were heard in the summer, they foretokened 
a wedding in the district ; but if heard in the spring or autumn, 

♦ ** The Mabinogion,'* p. 287 ; Jones, " Welsh Bards," vol. i., p. 44. 

; ,, r^<^,mw. ' 


a funeral might be expected. Heard in the winter, they indi- 
cated storms and severe weather, accompanied by sickness and 
death. [Family Collection.] 

A story often told by the firesides of South Wales is con- 
nected with the ruined towers of an ancient mansion on the 
summit of Pencarreg, by the road leading from Lampeter to 
Llandovery. Formerly the place was shunned at night, and 
people declared cries, groans, and moans were heard coming 
from the towers, and a strange wailing went wandering down 
to a certain spot beside the River Teifi. Several generations 
ago Squire Vaughan was the owner of the mansion called 
Maesyfelin. He had one daughter and three sons. These 
latter proved so reckless that he struck their names out of his 
will, and left all he possessed to his only daughter. Very soon 
the Squire and his wife died, and Helen, the heiress, came into 
possession of the estates. The brothers rejoiced in the fact 
that she was very delicate, and not likely to live long. They 
were pleased to see how gradually she became weak and 
pale and sad when she met her brothers' frowns, or witnessed 
their recklessness and revelry. But in a year's time she was 
stronger and more spirited. This puzzled them, and they 
attributed it to a probable lover. Setting a spy on her track, 
the Vaughans discovered that she was betrothed to young 
Prichard, the son of the Vicar of Llandovery. All through 
the country-side this young man was known as the " Flower 
of Llandovery." His father was the celebrated Rhys Prichard, 
vicar of the parish, and the author of the poems entitled the 
** Canwyll y Cymry," or the " Welshman's Candle." Helen 
and Prichard met by stealth. He would signal from Pen- 
carreg, and she waved a handkerchief from Maes5^elin- One 
day the brothers waved a signal, and went down to the river- 
side, where they concealed themselves among the bushes. 
Young Prichard hastened down, and not finding Helen at 
their usual trysting-place, hastened to the Hall. He was 
pursued by the brothers, but, outstripping them, entered the 
house, to meet the astonished girl, who swooned with fright. 
The brothers seized young Prichard, carried him to an out- 
house, and, after strangling him, placed his body in a sack. 
This they conveyed to the River Teifi, where, weighted by 


stones, it was thrown in. The mystery of the murder re- 
mained undiscovered for some time, Helen being the only 
witness. She became insane, and was looked after by the Vicar 
of Llandovery, but she died soon after the tragedy. Later 
on the body of young Prichard was found by a fisherman, who 
chanced to see spurs in the water. These spurs had broken 
through the sack that contained the body. The brothers soon 
became more reckless than ever, and one was killed by the 
other two. The third son killed the second, and there was at 
last only one of the Vaughans remaining. This one went 
raving mad, and poisoned himself with a concoction of hemlock. 
The mansion became a ruin dreaded by all. This is the story of 
the Maid of Maesj^elin and the Flower of Llandovery.* 

Rhys Prichard, the father of the " Flower of Llandovery," 
was a sturdy Royalist vicar and poet, who has been called the 
*' Hudibras '' of Wales. One of the saddest poems was that on 
the cruel murder of his son. But he is best known by his collec- 
tion of poems entitled " Canwyll y Cymry," or " Welshman's 
Candle,'* which is still familiar in Wales. This book was first 
published in 1646, consisting of Parts I. and IL A third part 
was issued in 1670. The second edition, with the addition of 
Part IV., was published in 1672. In all, fifteen editions have 
been issued, the best being that printed by the Llandovery Press 
in 1841. In 1771 an English poetical translation was published 
by the Vicar of Llawhaden. 

An old man was walking along the road leading from Canton 
to Leckwith many years ago, when he was joined by a strange- 
looking companion, who either dogged his footsteps or kept 
beside him persistently. Fast or slow, the stranger was not 
to be shaken off. The old man saw imploring glances in the 
sunken eyes, but not a word was uttered. " At last," said the 
old man, " I called nine names, but it did no good. He only 
kept looking at me, and then I got into a rage, and cursed him, 
but he didn't say nothing. At last I says, ' In the name of 
God, what do you want ?' Then tears ran down his face, and 
he said very slowly : ' I couldn't speak until you asked me in 
the name of God. I am dead, but I cannot rest till my head is 
buried. I was a boatman down the Ely River, and my head is 
* Llewelyn Pritchard's ** Twm Shon Catti,*' p. 143. 



on the bank, and the devils do play with it continually, using 
it as a football. If you will come with me and get it from them, 
and bury it, I shall rest.' Then the old man agreed to go down 
the river-side in search of the skuU. It was late, and the night 
was dark. Guided by the poor spirit, the man went to a bend 
of the River Ely, just above the present Taff Vale Railway 
bridge. There, by a bluish light, he saw a group of people, 
as he first thought, playing ball, instead of which they were 
little devils kicking football like hooray with the poor man's 
head. The old man said, ' I was feared at first, but then I 
knew what to do. I thought I would go to them praying (for 
I had often engaged in the prayer-meetings at Bethel). So I 
did, and as I came near to them, they all flew away, and I took 
the poor man's head and buried it in a soft place, digging a hole 
with my knife ; and the ghost, he stood all the while looking 
at me, until I finished the job, and then he did go away like 
a puff of smoke."* 

Stories of the Wandering Jew have been heard and chronicled 
in Pembrokeshire and Glamorgan, and both were connected 
with county families, whose names, for obvious reasons, were 
suppressed. The following story was obtained direct from a 
Glamorgan farmer. He said his grandfather had three sons and 
two daughters. Of the latter, one was married and the other 
was single. The unmarried girl was very handsome and 
spirited. One day a strange man came to the farm, and asked 
if they could accommodate him with apartments. He wanted 
to be in the heart of the country, to have quiet for studies. 
As he offered generous terms, they let him two rooms for an 
indefinite period. It was late in the autumn, and after the 
stranger had been there two months the farmer and his family 
felt quite at home with him. Soon the stranger made 
friends everywhere in the neighbourhood. The Vicar, the 
Squire, and the doctor invited him to their houses, for he was 
not only a man of intellectual attainments, but " good com- 
pany " in conversation. Spring came, and the stranger still 
remained. " Towards the summer," said my informant, 

* T. H. Thomas, R.C.A., '* Old Folks* Tales." This is pubUshed 
privately, and there are copies in the Cardiff Free Libraries. It is also 
to be found in the Transactions of the Cardiff Naturalists* Society, 
vol. xxxvi., 1903, p. 52 et seq. Cardiff, 1904. 



" Mr. W went away for a few days, and came back again. 

While he was away my Aunt Winifred was not the same girl 
— at least, so the neighbours said. She seemed spiritless. 
Rumour was abroad that Mr. W had been paying atten- 
tions to the Squire's daughter. At the same time, my uncles 
knew that he had been equally attentive to their sister. This 

displeased them, and when Mr. W came home they were 

determined to speak to him about it, ' lodger or no lodger,' 
they said, and he paid them handsomely. So they told him 
it- was not honourable to pay court to two girls at the same 

time. Mr. W expressed surprise and sorrow, which my 

uncles knew was genuine, for he spoke so kindly and sadly. 
' It is my fate,' he said, ' to win love ; it is my doom never to 
marry.' Very soon after that he went away. The Squire's 
daughter and my Aunt Winifred soon came to know that they 
had been in love with the same man, and became fast friends. 

Mr. W was remarkably handsome. In two years' time 

my Aunt Winifred died, having gradually pined away from 
the moment Mr. W — - left. Twenty years afterwards, when 
the roses were blooming over Aunt Winifred's grave, the 
Squire's daughter, who married a neighbouring baronet in less 
than two years after her early love-affair, went with my father 
to the churchyard. They stood together at the graveside of one 
who died too early. ' He was a mysterious man,' said Lady 

L . ' He was,' said my father. ' The Squire declared he; 

was the Wandering Jew,' remarked the lady ; and they left the 
grave. A moment later they were face to face with the very 

man, who passed on quickly to my aunt's grave. Lady L 

touched my father's arm. ' There he is,' she said ; and as the 
stranger stood bareheaded, they both whispered, ' There is a 
mystery about him.' He was never seen again, and both Lady 

L and my father always declared the mysterious stranger 

to be the Wandering Jew." 

The other story was told by a Carmarthenshire Squire. 
When his father was a youth he met a remarkably clever 
stranger, who appeared to have studied all that was possible 
in the world. Languages, art, science, music, and a host of 
other things, were at his fingers' ends. He had travelled 
all over the world, and was a most interesting companion. 


For six months they travelled together, and then parted. 
Before parting the stranger told his companion that they would 
meet and be together on three separate occasions of their lives. 
" After our third meeting and parting," said the stranger, 
" you will die, but I shall continue to wander until the day of 
doom/' The young man in due course became Squire, was 
married, and had children. When he was about fifty the 
stranger reappeared again in Carmarthenshire, and was as 
interesting as ever. The Squire invited him to his seat, and 
when alone, laughingly reminded the stranger of his prophecy. 
" It will be verified to the letter," said his guest. Later on the 
visitor took his leave. The Squire lived imtil he was eighty- 
six, and then revealed his story to his son. The latter thought 
it was an old man's fancy, and humoured it but little. A year 
later the stranger reappeared, and visited the old Squire, who 
was delighted to see his former friend. Two days he stayed, 
and when taking leave of the Squire he said : *' Good-bye, my 
dear old friend. You will never see me again." The next 
night the Squire died, murmuring, as he peacefully passed 
away : " The Wandering Jew ! Poor man ! He is the Wan- 
dering Jew !" 

In old stories told by the firesides fifty years ago the Red 
Goblins, or, as some called them, the Red Robbers, took a 
prominent place. It is not known whether these men derived 
the appellation " red " from the colour of their leader's hair 
or from the hue of their caps and cloaks. Some people said 
they were descended from a race which mated with goblins 
and hobgobUns. Others declared they were given that name 
for their goblin-like tricks. These men were notorious free- 
booters, famed for their cunning and bravery, and often for 
their generosity. It was their custom to kidnap adults and 
children, and restore them on payment of a ransom. Their 
headquarters were in the fastnesses of the Moelgillian Hills 
between the Garw and Llynfi VaUeys, to the north of Bridgend, 
in Glamorgan. Among those hills there is a large cave, in 
which, tradition asserts, the chieftain of these brigands lived, 
while his men dispersed themselves in lesser caverns and 
hollows near at hand. The Giant's Cave was occupied by the 
chief of the Red GobUns, whose name was a terror to people in 

22 — 2 


the neighbourhood and elsewhere. These men sometimes 
made raids into other parts, and on a few occasions visited the 
Vale of Glamorgan. Two stories told in Mabsant celebrations 
were well remembered by old inhabitants. One was to the 
effect that the Red GobUns traversed the Vale, and near Cow- 
bridge intercepted the Carmarthenshire drovers on the way to 
London with cattle. The robbers surrounded the herdsmen 
and their companions, bound them hands and feet, and drove 
the cattle to their own strongholds. This story was told in 
Welsh, with fantastic accompaniments, shouts, and mimic 

The second story was about a young lady captured by these 
men. One version described her as being a very rich English 
heiress visiting the Came family. The other stated she was a 
daughter of the Games. The Red Goblins seized her when she 
was riding, accompanied by a groom. After binding her man- 
servant to a tree, they carried her off to the mountains, and there 
kept her until ransom was demanded and paid. Many pathetic 
incidents were woven into this story, and it was asserted that 
they moved people to tears. It was quite understood that the 
Red Goblins included in their number several reckless young 
men of good families. Aged grand-dames and old nurses in 
the first half of the nineteenth century quieted noisy children 
by saying : " Hush, or the Red Goblins will come and take 
you !" The palmy days of these robbers were probably during 
the seventeenth or eighteenth century, and among the stories 
of the Vale of Glamorgan, allusions were made to the mad 
pranks and merry tricks of the Red Gobhns [Family Collec- 


Aber, 130 
Aberaeron, 160 
Aberavon, 297 
Aberdare, 53, 140 
Aberdaron, 51 
Aberdulais, 167 
Aberffraw, 51 
Abergele Well, 15 
^ Aberglasney, 106 
* Aberthaw, 117 
Aberystwyth, 159 
Adders, 177, 232 
Aderyn Pig Llwyd, 28 
Aeddan, 293 
Aeron, River, 153 
Afane,7o, 71 
All Saints' Day, 253, 254 
All Souls' Day, 255 
Amber, 232, 312 
Amulets, 233, 234 
Animals, sacred, 72 
Andras or Andros, 151 
Anglesea, 51, 74, 125, 127, 

208, 220, 330 
Anwyl Day, Llantwit's, 26 
Arawn, 48, 49 
Arfon, 74 
Arrow stone, 130 
Arthur, King, 125 
Arthur's harp, 35 

plough, 35, 74 

quoit, 131 

stone, 130, 131 
Ascension Day, 249 
Ash, the, loi, 103, 320 
Ash Wednesday, 247 
Avagddu, 37 

Bala Lake, 7, 13 
Bdltan, 22, 23 
Bard, the herald, 71 


Bardsey Island, 45 

Barry Island, 45 

Bassett, Sir Phillip, 67, 68 

Bats, 108 

Bear, 70, 74 

Beaupr6 Castle, 67 

Beaver, 70, 71 

Bees, 85 

Beetles, 85 

Bel and Beli, 22 

Beltane fires, 22, 23 

BerkeroUes, Sir Jasper, 197, 198 

Berwyn Mountains, 5 1 

Bethesda ar Fro, 188 

Bethesda, 159 

Births, 265-268 

Bishop's Rocks, 117 

Bloodstone, 232 

Boar, 73 

Bosheston Mere, 159 

Boverton, 45, 202 

Box, 98, 105 

Braichy PwU, 117 

Breaksea Point, 3 

Brecon, 200 

Breconshire, 104, 125, 161, 168, 

Brenin Llwyd, 48, 69 
Bridgend, 198, 255, 339 
Bristol Channel, 2, 3, 99 
Brittia, 308 

Brychan Brycheinog, 243 
Brynach's Stone, St., 128 
Button, Admiral, 183 

Cader Idris, 69, 82, 127 
Cadno, 70 

Cadoxton-juxta-Barry, 5, 299 
Caer Eyri, 81 
Caerleon, 134 
Caerphilly, 68, 184, 185 



Cai, 135 

Caldy Island, 45 

Camden, 74 

Candlemas Day, 244 

Candles of the Holy Ghost, 3 

spirit, 3 
Candfeston, 297 
Canton, Cardiff, 336, 
Canwyll y Cymry, 336 
Canwyll yr Ysbryd, 3 

• Glan, 3 
Cardiff, 117, 141 
Cardigan Bay, 153 
Cardiganshire, 14, 71, 73, 78, 153, 

160, 161, 168, 
Carmarthenshire, 78, 103, 108, 

i37> 155. i57» 158, 167, 179, 

180, 183, 185, 191, 201, 229, 

Carnarvonshire, 12, 17, 20, 104, 

126, 159, 168, 297, 299 
Carol-singing, 29 
Carreg-y-Llam, 166 
Carreg-y-Leidr, 127 
CastellCoch, 141, 142 
Castell-y-Mynach, 199, 200 
Caswallon Lawhir, 135 
Cats, black and white, 80 
Cattle, 72, 73 
Caverns and caves, 135-140 
Ceffyl-dwr, 59, 64 
Cefn Cam Cavall, 125 
Ceridwen, 37, 79 
Charms and spells, 224-231 
Charm stones, 231, 232 
Chester, 7, 8 
Chirk Castle, 139 
Christenings, 268, 269 
Christmas, 28, 29, 47, 244 
Churchyard mould, 45 
Clwyd, Vale of, 51 
Coelbren, 102 
Coll ab CoUfrewi, 74 
Colour-lore, 311, 312 
Collwyn, 12 
Colyn Dolphyn, 50 
Comets, 41 

Constellations, 35, 36, 41, 75 
Conway, curse on, 332 

mermaid of, 331 
Cooltrin Court, 258, 259 
Cordelia, daughter of Lear, 24 
Cornelly, 297 
Coroticus, 77 
Corpse birds, 184 

Corpse-candles, 178, 179 
Corpus Christi, 250, 251 
Corwen, 185, 186 
Cottrell, 127 
Courts-leet, 93, 251 
Cowbridge, 147, 187 
Criccieth, 140 
Cromlechs, 126, 127 
Crows, 84, 122 
Crug Ederyn, 167 
Crystal, 231, 232 
Cuckoo, 1 08-1 10 
Cwmciddy, 234 
Cwn Annwn, 47-54 
Cwn Wybyr, 48 
Cwrw Bach, 258 
Cymorthyn, 222 
Cynwal Gaio, 127 
Cynwal William, 39 
Cynyr Firfdrwch, 135 

Dafydd ap Gwylim, 82 
Days of the week, 241, 242 
Death flowers, 98 

omens, 284 

personifications of, 287-291 

superstitions, 280-284 
De Clares, the, 68 
Dee, the, 7 

Roodeye in the, 7 
Deity Stone, the, 133 
Deluge, 71 
Demons, 36 

Denbighshire, 167, 168, 185 
Derelicts, 2 
Devil, the, 150 

and the blacksmith, 150-154 

and Crack Hill, 162-164 

and harrow, 161 
Devil's bellows, 151 

Blow-Hole, 159 

Bridge, 151 

Chimneys, 159-160 

compacts, the, 154-159 

Messenger, 151, 154- 161 

Punch-Bowl, 159-160 

resorts, 159-160 

shapes, 159-160 

Stairs, 159-160 

Stone, 159-160 
Dewryn Fychan, 334 
Diseases and sickness : 

ague, 225 

apoplexy, 226, 318 

boils, 226 




Diseases and sickness (continued) ' 

bone-setting, 228 

burns and scalds, 227 

cancer, 315, 319 

cholera, 322 

consumption, 317 

dropsy, 318 

epilepsy, 227, 318 

erysipelas, 226, 317 

falling sickness, 318 

goitre, 319 

gout, 318 

head pains, 128, 321 

heartburn, 317 

hiccough, 225 

jaundice, 228 

king's evil, 319 

liver complaint, 228, 315 

plague, 322 

rheumatism, 318 

small-pox, 229 

sprains, 225 

tumour, 225 

toothache, 227, 316 
Dofydd, 37 
Dogs, 79, 80 
Dog-grass, 79 
Dogmell's Stone, St., 127 
Dog-star, the, 91 
Dolan Cothi, 134 
Dolgelly, 7 
Doves, 107 

Dragons, 165, 166, 167 
Drinking habits, 230 
Druidical lore, 308-310 

temple, 71 
Ducks, 108, 120 
Duffryn Clwyd, 322 
Duffryn (Glam.) cromlechs and 

other stones, 126, 127 
Dwyfan and Dwyfach, 70 
Dyfed, 74 
Dyfrigi, 72 
Dyn Hysbys, the, 50, 215-218 

Eagles, 81, 82 
Eagle's Nest, 35 
Earth, 43, 44, 45, 46 
Easter, 247, 248 
Eclipses, 37 
Eglwys Fair Well, 17 
Einion ap Collwyn, 76 
Elder-tree, the, 103, 104 
Ely River, 148, 203, 336, 337 
Erwood, 167 

Eurgain, the Cor, 44 
Evil, Well of, 15 
Ewenny, 198 

Ferns, 89, 90 
Festiniog, 222 
Fever birds, 322 

blight, 322 

flies, 323 

mist, 322 

moths, 322 
Ffynon Elian, 15, 16 
Ffynon Maen Migi, 79 
Ffynon Saethon, 16 
Fifth-century college, 81 
Fires, 22, 23, 27 
Fire superstitions, 33, 34 
Fire-wheel, midsummer, 27, 28 
Fish, 2 

Fishguard, 218 
Fitzhamon, Robert, 76 
Fitz- Walter, 129 
Flint, 320 

Flowers, 91-100, 313-315 
Fortune, good and evil, 324-329 
Fox, 77 

Friar's Point, 299 
Fruits, 99, 100 
Funerals, 274-279 

Gaps, creeping through, 319 
Garth Maelog, 69 
Garw Valley, 339 
Gaul, 308 
Geese, 1 14-122 
Gellionen, 69 
Well, 14 
Gileston, 120, 189 
"Giraldus Cambrensis," 72 
Glamorgan, 5, 10, 16-19, 21-23, 

26, 27, 54, 67, 76, 80-89, 100- 

117, 132-138, 149, 154-159, 161- 

169, 173-200 
Glasfryn in Lleyn, 297, 298 
Gliders, the, 208 
Glyncorrwg, 179 
Glyndwr, Owen, 41 
Goats, 81 
Goblin Stone, 128 
Goch, Sir John, 137 
Golden apples, 37 
Good Friday, 247 
Good wick, 218 
Gower, 4, 77, 80, 108, 117, 118, 

130, 160 



Greyhound, 79, 80 
Griffins, 166, 167-168 
Gruffydd-ap-Rhys-ap-Tudor, 197 
Guinea-fowls, 120 
Gwil y Filast, 79 
Gwion the Little, 79 
Gwrach-y-Rhibyn, 65-69 
Gwydion, the son of Don, 36, 292, 

Gwyn ab Nudd, 24 
Gwyddno Garanhir, 304 
Gwrgi Garwlwyd, 293 
Gwyned Well, Abererch, 16 

Hafod, 146 

Hallowe'en, 139, 152, 253, 256 

Hare, 77, 78 

Harvest, 262-264 

Harris, Cwrt-y-Cadno, Dr., 216- 

218, 229 
Harris, Werndew, Dr., 218-220 
Haverfordwest Bridge, 20 
Hawarden, Lord of, 7 
Hawk, the, 35 
Hawthorn, 106 
Hay in Breconshire, 129 

Maud of, 129 
Hazel, 103 

cap, 104, 105 
Healing spells, 226 
Heather, 98 
Heavens, 35-43 
Henfynnw Well, I4 
Hensol Castle, 148 
Hepste Waterfall, 21 
Herbs, 90-96 

Hereford, the Earl of, 129 
Hog, 74 
Holly, 88, 89 

Holms, steep and flat, 116, 117 
Holyhead, 45 
Holy Mountain, the, 45 
Holy Rood, 7 
Horse, 78, 79 

of Llyr, 35 

spectral, 59 

Water, 59 
Hunting Lady, 49 
Huntsman's Leap, the, 332 
Hu the Mighty, 36, 70 
Hydrophobia, 312-315 
Hywel the Good, 72 

Idris Gawr, 127 
Incantations, 229-231 

Inigo Jones, 68 
Insects, 85 
lolo ap Hugh, 139 
lolo Morgan wg, 121 

Jasper, 232 

Jesse-tree, 132 

Jew, the Wandering, 337-339 

Juniper caps, 105 

Kenfig Pool, 11, 119 
Kidwelly Castle, 196, 197 
Kilwch and Olwen, 73 

Ladybirds, 85 

Lady's Pool, Dead, 13 

Lady Trawst, 7 

Lake Llion, 70 

Lakes, 10-14 

Lambs, 73 

Lammas Day, 252 

Landslips, 46 

Larks, 120 

Leasing, the, 324-340 

Leeks, 93, 94 

Light, Celtic Deity of, 22 

Lightning, 42, 43 

Lisworney, 334 

Lizards, 312 

Lundy Island, 2 

Llanarth, 160, 330 

Llanblethian, 147, 188 

Llanbradach, 107 

Llancadle, 45 

Llancarfan, 18, 45, 168 

Llandaff, 304 

Llandewi Brefi, 70 

Llandilo, 179, 333 

Llandough Castle, 187 

Llandovery, the Flower of, 

Llandowror Well, 20 
Llandudno, 15, 159 
Llandwyn Well, 17 
Llandwynwen, 244 
Llandyfrydog, 125, 127 
Llanfairfechan, 130 
Llanfihangel-Nant-Melan, 51 
Llanfihangel Pennant, 159 
Llanganten, 98 
Llangorse Lake, 10, 11 
Llangynwyd, 84, 330 
Llanhamlwch, 79 
Llanrhaiadr-y-Mochnaut, 167 
Llan Rhos, 322 



Llansantfraid, 332 
Llantrisant, 69, 149, 330 
Llantwit Major, 330, 333 
Llanybyther, 329 
Lechlaver Stone, 130 
Lech yr Ast, 79 
Leckwith, 336, 337 
Lledrith, the, 192-194 
Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, 98 
Llew Law Gyffes, 292, 293 
Lleyn, 74 
Lligwy, 131, 132 
Llong Foel, 37 
Llostlydan, 72 
Llowes, 129 

Lludd and Llevelys, 165 
Llwyd, Huw, 221, 222 

Morgan, 223 

son of Kilcoed, 293 
Llyn Dulyn, 12, 13 
Llynfi Valley, 339 
Llyn Gwyn, 10 
Llyn Idwal, 159 
Llyn-Nad-y-Forwyn, 12 
Llyn Pont Rhyddu, 222, 223 
Llyn-y-Gader, 14 
Llyn-y-Maes, 11 
Llyr, 293 
Love cakes, 238 

drinks, 238 

spells, 235-237 
Luned, Stone of, 234 

Mabsant, 257 
Mabsantau, 257 
Maelgwyn Gwynedd, 322 
Maentwrog, 221 
Maes Gwenith, 74 
Maesyfelin, the Maid of, 336 
Magic, books of, 223 
Magpie, 84, 85 
Mallt-y-Nos, 48, 49, 50 
Manawyddan, 293 
Mandrake, 92 
Marcross Well, 18 
Margam, 297 
Mari Llwyd, 28 
Mars, the Celtic, 79 
Mary's Well, 17 
Mathonwy, 59, 292 
Maundy Thursday, 247 
Maurice de Londres, 197 
May, 24-26 

beverages, 25 

blossoms, 96 

May contests, 24 

customs, 22-24 

dances, 24, 25 

Eve, 71 

queen, 24 
Medrod, 293 
Menai Straits, 74 
Merionethshire, 168, 330 
Merlin, 113 
Merthyr Tydfil, 10 
Meteoric stones, 41 
Meteors, 41 
Michaelmas Day, 253 
Midsummer fires and festivals, 22. 

23. 27 
Milford, 3 
Milky Way, 35 
Mistletoe, 38, 87, 88 
Moelfre, 126, 131 
Moelgillian Hills, 339 
Moel-y-Pare, 208 
Mol Walbee, 129 
Monmouthshire, 156, 313 
Montgomeryshire, 167 
Months of the year, 260-264 
Moon, the man in the, 39 
Morda, 139 
Morfa, 107 
Morris dancers, 30 ' 
Morus, Sion Rhys, 75 
Myrtle, 105, 106 

Names, 329 
Nant Gwyrtheryn, 166 
Nant Francon, 151 
Nantle Well, 20 
Nant yr Afancon, 72 
Narberth, 152 
Nash Manor, 52 
Nash Passage, 2 
Neath, Glyn^ 205 
Vale of, 205 
Nefydd nif neifion, 70 
Newton Nottage, 119, 145 
New Year, 28, 47, 256 
Nicknames, 330, 331 
Night hag, 65 

Oaks, loi, 102 
Ogmore Castle, 200, 201 

River, 143 
Ogwen Valley, the, 159 
O'Neil, the Irish pirate, 26 
Orme's Head, Little, 159 
Owen de Galles, 137 


Owen Glyndwr, 137 
Owen of Cymru, 137 
Owen Redhand, 137 
Owl, 82-84 
Oxen, 59, 71, 72 

Palm Sunday, 246 
Palug Cat, the, 74 
I^ant Gwin, 7 
Path-crossing, 327, 328 
Pembrokeshire, 65, 117, 128, 183, 
192, 209, 218, 229, 230, 290, 291, 

330, 337 
Penarth, 154 
Pencarreg, 335 
Penllyne Cow, 334 
Penllyne, 168 
Penmark, 169 
Pennard Castle, 66 
Pentacles, 234, 235 
Penylan Well, 18 
Peredwr, 166 
Peter's Well, 17 
Phantom funerals, 1 85-191 
Picton, General, 138 
Pigeons, 120 
Pigs, 74, 121 
Pin Wells, 18 
Plants, 43, 89, 91-95, 315 
Plinlimmon, 51, 69, 82 
Ply gain, the, 28 
Pontypridd, 145 
Porthcawl, 190 . 
Porthkerry, 76 
Preceley Mountains, 176 
Price, Llantrisant, Dr., 229 
Prichard, the Rev. Rhys, 336 
Priestholme Island, 45 
Pryse, Edmund, 221, 222 
PwU Gwen Marw, 13 
Pwyllwrach, 53 

Quails, 120 

Quintin's Castle, St., 147, 154 

Radnor Forest, 51, 161, 169 

Old and New, 51 
Radnorshire, 129, 161, 169, 299 
Rag Wells, 18 
Rainbow, 41 
Raven, 84 
Red Altar, the, 12 
Redbreast, Robin, no- 113 
Red Goblins, 339, 340 
Red robbers, 339, 340 

Remedies, old-time, 312-320 
Resolven, 167 
Reynoldstone, 131 
Rhayadr, 167 
Rheidol, River, 151 
Rhianedd, 322 
Rhiwogo, 159 
Rhiwsaeson, 199 
Rhondda River, 145 
Rhymney, 184, 185 
Rivers, 7-9 
Robber's Stone, 227 
Robert of Gloucester, 141 

of Normandy, 141 
Robin Ddu Ddewin, 220, 221 
Roch Castle, 177 
Ruabon, 185 

Sailors* superstitions, 2-4 
Sais's Ford, 127 
Scilly Islands, 3 
Sea, the, i, 2 
Second sight, 191, 192 
Secret hoards, 141 -149 
Seisyllts, the Cecils or, 67 
Seren dydd, 38 
Serpents, 167-169 
Severn, 121 

legend of the, 8, 9 
Shamrock, 95 
Sheep, 73 

Shee Well, Ogmore, 19, 20 
! Ship, Devil's three-masted, 3 
Shrove Tuesday, 245, 246 
Silver Well, 16 
Sir John Wynne, 20 
Sker Rocks, 119 
Skyrrid Fawr, 44 
Snakes, 170-177 
Sneezing, 326 
Snowdon, 69, 81, 82 
Souls, transmigration of, 304- 

Spirit hounds, 47 
Springs, 19-21 
Stackpool, 127 
Stack Rocks, 117 
Stags, 59, 81 

Stars, shooting and falling, 42 
St. Agnes's Eve, 47 
St. Andrew's Day, 255 
St. Athan, 197 
St. Bartholomew's Day, 262 
St. Cadoc, 44 
St. Cynwal, 127 



St. David, lo, 135, 245 
St. David's Day, 245 
St. David's the Lowing, 71 
St. Dogmeirs, 127 
St. Donates Castle, 50, 65 
St. Dwynwen's Day, 243 
St. Eliem's Well, 15, 16 
St. Elmo's fire, 3 

stars, 3 
St. Gowan, 333 
St. Gowan's Chapel, 45 
St. lUtyd, 333 
St. John's Eve and Day, 27, 47, 

251, 252 
St. Martin's Day, 255 

Eve, 47 
St. Mary Hill, 262 
St. Mellon's, 79 
St. Michael's Day, 252 
St. Nicholas, 3, 126, 175 
St. Nicholas' Lights, 3 
St. Patrick, 10, 45, 77 
St. Patrick's Day, 245 
St. Peris' Well, 16 
St. Peter's Day, 252 

Lights, 3 
St. Swithin's Day, 252 
St. Teilo, 333 

St. Valentine's Day, 244, 245 
Stones, curious, 126-134 
Storm and wind raising, 117, 

Stradling mystery, the, 65 
Strata Florida, 159 
Sully, 117 

Summer and winter fight, 25, 26 
Sun, the, 36, 37, 38 
Swallow Falls, 20 
Swallows, 107-120 
Swans, 114, 122 

Taff, the River, 9, 145 
Taff's Well, 18 
Taliesin, 59, 304, 305 
Talismans, 234 
Taran, 42 
Taranis, 42 
Tegid, Lake, 13 
Teifi, the River, 72 
Teirtud, 334, 335 
Tewdrig, the C6r, 44 
Tewdws, Twr, 35 
Thaw, the River, 67 
Thunderstorms, 42, 43 
Toriad-y-dydd, 38 

Transformations : 

birds, 293, 294 

cats, 294, 299, 300 

crows, 294 

deer, 293 

dog, 293 

doves, 307 

eagle, 294 

flower, 292 

fox, 300 

frog, 303, 304 

geese, 297 

hawk, 294 

hog, 293, 294 

mice, 294 

mouse, 293 

raven, 294 

serpent, 294 

snake, 294 

swan, 294, 297, 298 

wolves, 295 

werewolves, 296, 297 
Transmigration of the soul, 304- 

Treasure, buried, 141-149 
Treflyn, 12 
Tregaron, 12 
Tre Greinyn, 127 
Trelech-ar-Bettws, 167 
Trelech Cannar, 117 
Trelyfan, 128 
Tripa'r Ser, 41 
Tuskar Rocks, 119 
Twelfth Night, 28, 30, 50, 130 
Twrch, Gwylim, 68 
Twrch Trwyth, 73 
Tydu, 222 

Underworld, dogs of the, 50 

King of the, 50 
Urien, Owen, son of, 234 

Vampire stories, 54-58 
Van Mountains, the, 176 
Vipers, 174, 312 
Vita Sancte Iltuti, 81 
Vivien, 137 

Vortigern's Valley, 166 
Vulture, 82 

Wagtails, 113, 114, 120 
Water-horses, 59-64 
Water superstitions, 4-6 

worship, 5 
Weasel, 78 


( ' syjm" 


Weather, foretelling the, 119 
superstitions, 120-124 

Weddings, 270-274 

Weird ladies, 195-205 

Wells, 14-20 

changing colour, 19 

Wenvoe, 19, 296. 297 

Werewolves, 296, 297 

Wheatfield in Gwent, 74 

Whirlpools, 9, 10 

Whitmore Bay, 298, 299 

Wick, 189 

Willow caps, 105 

Wilton Cross ways, 52 

Wishing-steps, 8 

Wishing- well, 17 

Wiston, 176, 177 

Witches, 206-215 
Wizards, 215-223 
Wolf, 75, 76, 295 
Woodcock, 120 
Woodpecker, 108 
Worm s Head, 119, 168 
Wrens, 113 
Wrexham, 223 

Ychain Banawg, 70, 71 
Yellow-hammer, the, 114, 312 
Yew, 105 
Y Fall, 151 
Ynys-y-Gerwn, 167 
Ystrad Gwyn, 159 
Ystradgynlais, 167 
Yule-log, 28 


In writing this book, the following authorities were consulted : 

I. Printed Sources. 

Davies' " Mythology and Rites of the British Druids,'* and " Celtic Re- 
searches," 1804 and 1809. 

" The Mabinogion." This work was translated by the late Lady Charlotte 
Guest from the Welsh '* Llyfyr Coch o' Hergest," or the " Red Book of Her- 
gest," in the library of Jesus College, Oxford. 

lolo Morgan wg. The lolo MSS. form the celebrated collection of the late 
Edward Williams, under his bardic name. He died in 1826. 

The Camhro-Briton, The Cambrian Quarterly, and The Greal. These are 
periodicals of the early nineteenth century. 

Edmund Jones of Tranch : " A Relation of Apparitions of Spirits in the 
Principality of Wales, etc. '* ; published " at Trevecka," 1780. A copy of tiiis 
is in the Cardiff Free Library. 

William Howells, Carmarthen : " Cambrian Superstitions." This book 
belongs to the early nineteenth century. A copy was lent to me by the 
author's granddaughter, Mrs. Evans. A volume, dated 1831, is in the 
Cardiff Free Library. 

Professor Sir John Rh^s, M.A., F.S.A., Jesus College, Oxford : " Celtic 

The Rev. Elias Owen, M.A., F.S.A. : " Welsh Folk-lore." 

Hoare's " Giraldus Cambrensis." 


" Welsh Archaeology," vol. ii. 

Pennant's ** Tours in Wales." 

Geoffrey of Monmouth. 

Owen, in Richard's " Cambro-British Biography." 

Smith's " Religion of Ancient Britain." 

Rees's " South Wales." 

Meyrick's " Costumes of Ancient Britons." 

" Welsh Sketches," 1850. 

Llewelyn Pritchard's ** Twm Shon Catti." 

Thomas Hughes.^F.S.A. : " Handbook to Chester." 

" Voyage dans le Finisterre," 1794 and 1796. 

Charles Redwood : " The Vale of Glamorgan." This work was published 
anonymously in 1839. For some years the authorship remained undiscovered. 
The collection was subsequently attributed to the late Mr. Charles Redwood, 
of London, Cowbridge and Boverton, Glamorgan. Thomas Carlyle visited 
him when preparing the memoirs of Captain John Sterling, the " Thunderer " 
of The Times, who lived at Llanblethian, near Cowbridge. 

The David Jones MSS. This collection was bequeathed by the late Mr 
David Jones, formerly of Llanblethian, Glamorgan, and afterwards of Walling - 



tbn, Surrey, to Mr. Iltyd B. Nicholl, J.P., F.S.A., of the Ham, Llantwit 
Major. The MSS. were lent by the latter to Mr. T. C. Evans, author of 
" The History of Llangynwy," for his " Welsh Tit-bits " column in the South 
Wales Weekly News, where it appears under the bardic name of ** Cadrawd." 

Mr. T. H. Thomas, R.C.A. — " Arlunydd Penygarn," herald bard of the 
Welsh National Gorsedd : " Old Folks' Tales.*' 

To Mr. Iltyd B. Nicholl I am indebted for the use of many books in pre- 
paring this work, while from volumes in the public libraries of the British 
Museum, the city of Cardiff, and elsewhere, I have derived much information. 

.The Welsh collection in the Reference Department of the Cardiff Free 
Library is invaluable to students of Celtic literature. 

II. Oral Statements and MSS. 

For various reasons — chiefly religious — the names of persons who either 
remembered the stories or allowed access to private documents have not been 
mentioned, but I reserved to myself the privilege of naming the localities 
from which my material has been drawn. Oral statements and MSS. are 
accompanied by initials, of which the following is a list : 

A. B. — ^These initials cover the names of clergymen, Dissenting ministers, 
and others whose itinerary profession or trade gave them opportunities of 
hearing folk-stories in North and South Wales, 

C. D. — These initials indicate an old inhabitant who related stories well 
known in the first half of the nineteenth century. His surviving relatives 
have religious reasons for desiring anonymity. 

O. S. — Old servants — some retainers of ancient families, and others per- 
sonally employed. 

J. R. — This old man requested anonymity in the personal interests of his 

Mrs. E requested anonymity for private reasons explained. 

Mr. William Davies, whose bardic name is Gwylim Glan Ogwy, is an inde- 
fatigable collector of all kinds of lore about Wales. 

Family Collection and MSS. This indicates my late father's collection. 


Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row, London. 

NOV 2 2 1920 

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